Loss of Cemetery Revenue Causes Tricky Response

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A friendly but complicated twist has occurred in a cemetery that contains the remains of border towns in Hebron, Illinois.  According to an article in the Lake Geneva News the Linn-Hebron Cemetery was started many years ago by members of the Linn Presbyterian Church, which used to be located in Hebron, Illinois, and started the cemetery in 1847.

The endowment fund has been exhausted, the cemetery is old and gets little revenue, Hebron Township has been funding the cemetery, but now that funding has run out.  Recently, representatives of Hebron Township (Illinois) asked representatives of Linn Township (Wisconsin) to help fund the operations and upkeep since so many of their resident’s family members are buried there.

Linn Township Supervisor Christine Jones replied, “You can’t take Wisconsin taxpayer money and spend it in Illinois”.  According to the article, Jones is concerned about the ramifications of that option.  She suggests getting donations from families of those who are buried in the cemetery.

Funeral Director Daily take:  This is a small cemetery and I’m guessing that when faced with issues like this the local community will come up with a solution — they always do.  However, just the issue brings up a bigger question.

There are both community cemeteries and rural church cemeteries all over the country that, because of demographic changes, are seeing little, if any, activity.  So, no grave lot sales, no interment sales, and very small endowment earnings, if they have an endowment, will eventually cause them to have the same issues for upkeep.  I have been a member of a cemetery association in my small community in Minnesota for several years.

We have historically done about 50 interments per year and sold about 30 graves per year — enough, coupled with our endowment earnings – to hire a part-time caretaker who keeps the cemetery in good shape.  With the advent of cremation – we are at about 60% now – interment charges are less and we sell less grave lots.  I can envision this problem exacerbating, and without higher endowment earnings, causing cash-flow problems in the future.

In any regard, we must acknowledge that there will be financial issues in small, rural cemeteries which have little activity.  They will probably end up maintained by townships and small cities. 

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