Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL
The DeFuniak Springs City Council meeting held on Sept. 12, 2022, at the Walton County included an extended discussion on the Magnolia Cemetery fee increase.
Continuing the report concerning fee increase, citizens Ralph and Mary Griner were on the DeFuniak City Council agenda discussing the increases to the fee schedule. They were concerned about the drastic increase in fees. The following is from the October 11, 2021, agenda that was approved, and the consequences of that meeting.
The contract with the Walton County Correctional facility to maintain the grounds was $50,000 annually. It was discontinued and employees needed to be hired to replace them. They had used five inmates and one supervisor to manage an estimated 7,000 grave sites and 53 acres that need to be mowed and trimmed, and an additional undeveloped 31 acres for two weeks out of the month for eight months to maintain the cemetery. The city already had one employee to manage the cemetery. The city no longer was receiving assistance from inmates with maintenance. According to the information submitted to the council at the Oct. 11, 2021 meeting:
“If the city were to outsource the maintenance on the grounds (mowing and trimming), it would cost an estimated $200,000 to $250,000 per year.
“The average number of permits issues annually is 78 (Oct 1, 2015, to current, totally 472). The city charges $50.00 for each permit, equaling an average $3,900 annual revenue.
“The average number of burials each year is 50. Currently the city only receives the permit fee of $50.00 for each burial.
“The city sells an average number of 20 plots a year at a price of $1,000 each.
“Niches are sold for $515.00, and the city sells an average of 2 annually.”
The city will be assigning another employee to the cemetery. Funds from the expired correctional contract ($50,000)
“There will an increase to the permit fees from $50 to $350. With the current average permits purchased (78), it would increase the cities revenue from $3,900 to $27,300.
“The city will incorporate the opening and closing of burial services and will charge a fee of $750 for each burial. With the current average of 50 a year this would yield a profit of $39,500 to the cemetery budget.
“There will be an increase price for the sale of each plot from $1,000 to $1,750. Using the current average of 20 per year, this would increase the city’s budget from $20,000 to $35,000.
“Increase Niches prices from $515 to $650. This would increase the budget from $1,030 to $1,300.”
“Conclusion: The amount of annual revenue to the city for the additional charges and services would be as follows:
• Permits $3,900 $27,300
• Plots $20,000 $35,000
• Burial Services $0.00 $39,500
• Niches Sales $1,030 $1,300
• Staff $0.00 -$7,730
• Equipment $0.00 -18,525
Totals $24,930 $76,845
“The equipment expenses ($18,525.00) would be a one-time expense. After these initial expenses the Magnolia Cemetery will generate a profit of $103,100.00.” [END OF OCT. 11, 2021 AGENDA FORM]
DFS City Manager Robert Thompson had recommended in the Oct. 25, 2021, meeting that the fees have a tiered approach instead of an all at once increase. The motion was amended by Council member Robert McKnight and seconded by Mayor Pro-Tempore Todd Bierbaum to approve the adoption of the proposal with the exception of any component where the city would hire a single source for opening and closing and retain the $500 opening and closing fee to be effective Jan. 1, 2022, and not include an escalation in the burial services fee.