This is not the first time that we have discussed the issue of neglected, abandoned, or just plain financially failing cemeteries on this forum. However, this might be the first time where a county is to the point where they may bring the issue to the voters in order to create a dedicated funding stream for such.
According to this article from the California Mountain Democrat, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors recently voted 4-1 to move forward and hold a public hearing on a proposed ballot measure that would tax each land parcel in a “zone of benefit” $9 for the upkeep of the 20 cemeteries that the county maintains and operates. With 67,630 land parcels in the “zone” the ballot measure, if passed would raise $609,000 annually.
According to the article, cemeteries are becoming unowned or abandoned as families move away. And, once under the control of the county, in California the county is required to “prescribe maintenance to protect public health and safety and assure decent respectful treatment of human remains”. Again, according to the article, public funding for these cemeteries was about $73,000 in fiscal 2015-2016, $152,000 in fiscal 2016-2017, and is expected to be near $250,000 in the latest fiscal year.
Speaking in favor of the tax was Supervisor Mike Roberts, “Conditions have slipped a lot. A lot of the lawns get cut once a summer. Historical headstones are under threat.”
District 2 Supervisor Shiva Frentzen raised concerns about recent ballot measures that have been defeated such as those for increased fire protection. Frentzen is quoted in the article with this comment, “I don’t know how we can go to our residents with this. People who are alive aren’t willing to pay for their protection yet we’re going to be bringing a parcel tax for cemeteries for dead people?”
Funeral Director Daily take: Unfunded cemetery operations in the United States is a growing and growing problem. El Dorado County does have a dilemma here not unlike many other municipalities over this issue.
It would be perfect if they could pass this measure that dedicates funding for the upkeep and operation of the cemeteries that they now find themselves in control of. However, I somewhat agree with Commissioner Frentzen and believe passage of this measure may be a long shot.
If the ballot measure fails, the county still has to pay for the upkeep. It will just come out of the general fund which will necessitate raising of taxes or a curtailment of some other service that residents have gotten used to. That will not be popular either.
There is just no doubt that the changing mores and customs of Americans have resulted in cemeteries, in many locales, taking the brunt of much of the financial crunch. Finding the proper funding seems to be difficult.