Mark Taylor
Johnson County Commissioners on Jan. 19 voted to continue a public hearing to consider a request from the Edgerton Cemetery Association to form a cemetery district with taxing authority.
The cemetery district would be formed  in an effort to help head off the cemetery association’s financial problems.
The boundaries of the proposed cemetery district include all of McCamish Township and the City of Edgerton, excluding the portion of Gardner located within McCamish Township, the existing Prairie Center Cemetery District, Four Corners Cemetery, St. Columbine Cemetery, the Lost Cemetery along the Santa Fe Trail, and churches and schools witin McCamish Township.
The public hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 26 on the third floor of the County Administration Building.
The Edgerton City Council is also expected to meet this week to form its recommendation to the county commission.
Edgerton Council members said last week they would schedule a work session to discuss alternatives to a taxing district. That meeting has yet to be scheduled.
Del Sawyer, chairman of the cemetery association, told the Edgerton City Council in August that the cemetery has been examining ways to generate revenue to continue maintenance and operations at the cemetery.
He said the cemetery has a savings account of $38,000 that generates about 1.25 percent interest, but the majority of the association’s funds comes from the sale of grave sites.
“Last year we sold two grave sites,” Sawyer told the council.  “And I think this year we’ve sold one…We’re running out of money.”
The cemetery association last year contacted Rick Lind of the Johnson County Legal Department to explore its options.
“We’re looking at avenues to raise funds for the cemetery, keep costs down for everyone, and keep the cemetery going,” Sawyer said.
Lind added, “In a matter of 10-12 years, if we keep losing money at the rate we are going, we are going to go belly-up.”
Lind said the cemetery association had three options.
The first is to walk away.
“If they just did nothing and walked away…after a one year period of time the attorney general could file a suit to declare the cemetery abandoned,” Lind said.  “It would probably end up with the county taking over maintenance and operations.”
The second option is to dissolve the corporation and turn its assets over to the city, which would then be responsible for maintaining the cemetery.
The third option, which was preferred by the cemetery association, is to petition the county for the formation of a cemetery district.
“Then they have taxing authority and become like a quasi municipal entity in that they can have taxing authority,” Linn said. “Under the statutes they have the authority to raise up to $6,000 or 2 mills, whichever is greater.”
Lind said forming a cemetery district with an annual budget of $7,800 would cost the owner of a $150,000 house $2.51 per year if the city were included in the district, and $5.91 per year if the city were excluded.
That is based on a taxing rate of about one-half of a mill. However, the district would have authority for 2 mills if needed.
“They are not looking to make money, they are looking to break even,” Lind said. “But it would give them cushion if (costs) go up.”
Lind said the cemetery association plans to petition for the formation of a cemetery district in the fall.
He said the process will require the approval of the board of county commissioners, followed by a 30-day window to allow for a protest petition.
If 10 percent of voters living within the district sign a protest petition, the cemetery district would be put on an election ballot.