• 52°

Danville increases cemetery plot prices, service fees

Danville City Commission has approved a 10-percent increase across the board for fees associated with cemeteries in Danville, as well as a 15-percent increase for services.

City Manager Ron Scott said fees have not been increased for almost 20 years.

Scott revised earlier recommendations made by Gail Louis, chair of the city’s Cemetery Committee, who “made a number of recommendations .. on behalf of the committee.”

Those included requests to increase and make uniform fees between Bellevue and Hilldale cemeteries for the cost of gravesites; to increase fees for city services, such as the opening and closing of graves, internmnet of cremation remains; to authorize the sale of single gravesites instead of requiring the purchase of two; and to construct a cemetery pavilion or similar structure, as was recommended by the last cemetery master plan.

Scott said he and other city staff looked at the recommendations and compared them to what other cities are charging.

“Cemetery fees have not been increased since 1990,” Scott told the commission Monday night. “Which is a considerable period of time for the city to provide these services with no increase.”

“Not adjusting costs since 1990 is actually doing a disservice to the public,” Mayor Mike Perros said. “We’re not doing the taxpayer right. Certainly no reflection on you — thank you for catching this.”

Scott recommended, and the commission approved, a “modest and uniform 10-percent” increase across the board for gravesites, and a 15-percent increase for services. 

“Even with these increases, we are still well below the market on these types of services and these plots,” Perros said. He said many cemeteries no longer sell lots; they lease spaces — something he thinks the commission should think about. 

“Seems to me, in the past, so much of the problems that have occurred with respect to keeping the cemeteries the way people would like to see them is due to the fact we don’t have control because we sell those lots. Is that something we can look into?” Perros asked. 

Scott said certainly, but added, “You and I might have a slight difference of opinion in that, and we’ve talked about it …” He said a perpetual lease is not much different from the sale of property. “But the regulations under which the property is sold should indicate the restriction … It may not be a difference of selling or leasing, may be a clearer communication needed about what’s allowed.” 

Perros said that may be, but everyone he’s spoken to is “always surprised when they find out we sell.” 

City Attorney Stephen Dexter said there are two schools of thought.

“An older cemetery, like ours in the city of Danville, is intended to sell. If you were to start a new cemetery, you perhaps would set them up as a license, not a lease — it’s a license you would grant,” Dexter said. “It wold be a rose by any other name.” 

Dexter said for instance, if you buy a ticket to a concert, you don’t have ownership to the seat — you have a license to use it for a particular time period. “It can be revoked, and they can kick you out. That consequence does not exist for a cemetery plot. If you have a family member that doesn’t abide by the rules and regulations of the cemetery, you’re not going to remove the body.” 

In all essence, Dexter said, it will be the same terms and conditions in both instances. “It’s a red herring; the real issue is the rules and regulations of the cemetery. An issue of communication, I would agree.” 

Commissioner J.H. Atkins asked what the suggested fee was from the Cemetery Committee. Scott said the committee had proposed a uniform amount of $800 to be charged across the board. However, that would have made a big difference in Hilldale Cemetery, where the highest grave space fee is $400, Scott said.

“Wow,” Atkins said. He asked if that amount had anything to do with anticipated expenses coming up. 

“I think that was out of the viewpoint that it costs a lot of money to run a cemetery … We need a lot of paving, and it probably reflects some frustration on the part of that committee on the perceived, or actual, slow pace at which the city has made those improvements … But it just seemed to me and other staff that it was asking too much.” 

With the 10-percent increase on plots, lots in Bellevue, for example, will range from $358 to $1,650, based on the location. Hilldale will range from $358 to $440. Weekday services, factoring in the 15-percent service fee increase, will go from $600 to $690, with the most expensive being weekend services, going from $1,200 to $1,380. 

Within the newly adopted budget, the cemetery operation fund was approved at $326,119. Landscaping/flowers increased from $5,000 to $10,000; materials increased from $6,000 to $12,000; capital expenditures (security cameras and upgrades to recent land acquired outside Bellevue) are budgeted at $50,000; and additional paving or roads in cemeteries is budgeted at $20,000. 

2018-19 budget

The second reading and adoption of the 2018-19 budget was also unanimously passed during Monday night’s meeting. The total budget, at roughly $57.68 million, includes appropriations for the following funds: $28.8 million for general operating; $660,000 for municipal aid; $1,006,580 for garbage; $1.06 million for storm water; $26,702 for police safety; $20,000 for drug forfeiture; $1.65 million for streetscape; $316,119 for cemetery; $17,589,281 for utlity; $43,730 for museum; and $480,381 for parking. 

The general fund balance is budgeted to decline: The city had more than $9 million at the end of June 2017. It’s expected to have $8.3 million at the end of this month. The projected balance at the end of June 2019 is about $6 million. 

The biggest change is appropriations for captial expenditures in the amount of $12,074,208, which are related to the construction of a new fire station and a new ladder truck; completing the city’s energy efficiency upgrades; and a $2.4 million water line upgrade to Corporate Drive. 

The budget analysis also touches on the new way Parks & Recreation will be funded. The total allocation for Parks & Recs is $240,000. Of that, $100,000 will be placed in a restricted account to be released upon approval of City Manager Ron Scott, and set aside for all parks and capital improvements — including pool repairs, Trumbo field improvements, trails, city parks and any expenses approved by Scott for Millennium Park. An additional amount of $140,000 is allocated in a restricted account for neighborhood parks capital improvements — which is the fund the city has been building over the few past years to repair or replace Bunny Davis Pool.

The streetscape fund ($1.65 million) includes improvements to be made in the area of Main Street, from Fifth to Fourth streets, at $250,000. Also budgeted was the potential to receive a $900,000 streetscape grant for further improvements.