The newest Lake Township trustee is proposing the formation of a citizen’s advisory board to offer recommendations on policies covering the township cemetery and says the township trustees should consider raising cemetery fees on non-residents to cover increasing costs.
Jeff Pettit, who was elected in November, said Tuesday other area cemeteries have higher fees for non-residents for opening burial plots, setting foundations and other services and Lake Township hasn’t increased its fees for several years. He said an advisory board should draw its members from the unincorporated area of the township and the villages of Millbury and Walbridge to ensure it reflects the entire township.
The township doesn’t have a property tax levy to support the cemetery, relying instead on the fees and sales of burial plots.
Vicki Schwamberger, township fiscal officer, said the township trustees have tapped into the general fund to cover cemetery costs when revenues from fees were insufficient to meet costs. As an austerity measure, the trustees opted to not hire seasonal help to trim the cemetery lawn, which last year drew criticism from some residents about grass overgrowing headstones.
Only one seasonal employee was hired last year compared to years past when as many as five seasonal workers were hired. The trustees last year budgeted $160,000 for cemetery costs but by the end of May there was only a balance of about $29,000 in the fund.
Trustee Richard Welling said fee increases were discussed in 2008 but the trustees decided it would be unfair to raise them when the economy was slowing.
He and trustee Melanie Bowen asked Pettit to conduct more research on his proposals and present his findings at a future meeting.
Gary Schulte, the current cemetery sexton, has indicated he intends to file this year for benefits from the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, Schwamberger said.
Bowen said the trustees should discuss whether a full-time replacement is to be hired or whether the position should be split into part-time jobs.
In other business, the cost of health insurance for township employees will increase by about 10 percent this year if the trustees decide to renew a policy with Medical Mutual of Ohio, according to figures compiled by Don Douglas, of The Ashley Group, for the trustees.
The township’s premium for 2013 was $252,817. In 2014, it is expected to increase to $277,990.
About 4 percent of the increase is due to fees imposed by the Affordable Care Act.
Unionized members of the police department contribute 12 percent in premium costs and non-union employees contribute 10 percent, Schwamberger said.
Bowen said the trustees will discuss renewal of the policy at their next meeting.
She was re-elected chairman of the board of trustees for 2014 while Welling was elected vice-chairman.