Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz
Plot prices were recently increased at Gardner Cemetery, and for the first time, city residents will be charged more than non residents.
“There has not been an increase in the price of the graves for approximately 20 years,” said David Wolf, Gardner Township trustee. “A price increase had been talked about since I first started on the township board in 2004.”
Historically, township and city officials have worked together to maintain prices at an equal level.
In the beginning, the cemetery was maintained by the township and the city was part of the township, Wolf said. When the city separated from the township, there was a verbal agreement to share the cost of the cemetery expense.
However, Gardner reduced their contribution by about half in 2011 to $7,500. “We have communicated to the city each year for more assistance and have kept the price for the Gardner citizens the same as the township all that time.”
Prices were increased after Gardner again budgeted $7,500 for the township. More than 50 percent of the cemetery’s burials are Gardner residents.
Plot prices were increased and approved during the township’s August budget meeting.
Not everyone is happy with the new tiered pricing, and have instead purchased lots in surrounding cemeteries.
The Gardner Cemetery Association, which contracts with the township for cemetery upkeep and maintenance, has discussed the price increase with township officials, with at least several members questioning need for the price increase as well as concerns regarding the tiered pricing.
According to the GCA’s minutes, at a Nov. 9 joint meeting with the township, grave prices were again amended to $500 for township residents; $600 for military; $1,000 for city residents and $2,000 for nonresidents. There is also a requirement for three months proof of tax payments for Gardner residents and proof of service to obtain military pricing.
The township’s Nov. 9 meeting minutes were not available at press time.
Thru the years the township’s contribution has increased from about $18,000 in 2006 (city $17,500) to $51,500 in 2016 (city $7,500). In an April, 2016 letter from the township board to Gardner city asking for an increase in funding, township officials said more than 50 percent of its burials are Gardner citizens.
The April letter provides a price list showing both township and city resident grave plots at $300 each. The price was increased after the city failed to increase funding.
“The township is open to anyone interested in providing input on cemetery lot pricing,” Wolf said. “There had to be an increase of some type to keep up with costs associated with cemetery.”
Wolf said the city’s contribution to the cemetery upkeep had always affected the price of graves for the citizens of Gardner. If the city were to consider an increase in funding, plot prices for city residents could be reduced.
Asked for comment, city officials agreed funding had not been increased, and did not indicate an increase had been requested.
Gardner does not budget any upkeep at the cemetery, as it is not a city facility, according to Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo public information officer. The cemetery is operated by Gardner Township and the Gardner Cemetery Association.
However, the city does provide $7,500 annually currently. “There is no requirement for the city to provide any funding, as Gardner Township is its own taxing entity with the ability to levy for their operations per their determination,” Marshall-Oquendo said.
“Funding has been at $7,500 since 2011 and has not been increased above the annual $7,500 since that time,” Marshall-Oquendo said. “Again, there is no requirement for the city to provide funding to the cemetery. It is not a city facility, and the township is the taxing authority. The funding is for all practical purposes a “grant” to the township.”
In the past, some in-kind work has been donated in the form of street upkeep. Gardner Police Department also patrols the area.
Lot rates are are not determined by the city; nor are cemetery rules. Marshall-Oquendo continued, “Gardner Township is their own taxing entity and works in conjunction with the GCA. As their own taxing entity, they can increase mill levy as they see fit for maintenance, upkeep, as well as determining their own plot rates.”
According to a search of Kansas statutes, any township owning and maintaining a cemetery may “charge persons not resident in the township an amount not to exceed 50 percentum additional to such reasonable value, for the upkeep of the cemetery.”
That apparently could cap lots for those outside the township at $750, possibly less any monies or in kind services contributed by Gardner city, according to rates quoted in the GCA minutes.
Gardner officials indicate they have not recently received a request for additional monies for cemetery upkeep.
“The city has long provided money and continues to provide money on an annual basis even when not requested,” said Chris Morrow, mayor. “If the cemetery board is interested in receiving greater support from the City of Gardner, it would be appropriate to contact the city with the request. As mayor, I would be glad to receive that request.”
According to information supplied by the Johnson County clerk, who is required to keep a duplicate copy of the budget, in 2015, the township received and spent $61,833. Besides ad valorem and motor vehicle taxes, this amount included $7,500 received from Gardner to offset cemetery costs associated with city residents.
Expenses listed by the township include $5,950 for officers pay, $14,900 for miscellaneous and $11,275 for general expenses and $29,600 for cemetery maintenance.
The township contracts with the Gardner Cemetery Association for operations, and the GCA’s budget is about $50,000.
Members of the Gardner Township Board are: David Wolf, Donna Pearce and Mary Freund.
Members of the Gardner Cemetery Association, which contracts with the township, are: Shirley VanArsdale, Marcia Gay, Debbie Johnson, Jerry Gay, Lisa Berg, Shane Brown, Merle Schick and Mark Wilmoth. Sextons are Janet Bonar and Glen Bonar.
The cemetery is located at 340 W Poplar.