Mark Taylor
Johnson County Commissioners narrowly approved a request from the Edgerton Cemetery Association to form a cemetery district with taxing authority on Jan. 26.
The vote carried 4-3 with commissioners  Jim Allen, Calvin Hayden, C. Edward Peterson, and Chairman Ed Eilert voting in favor and commissioners Michael Ashcraft, David Lindstrom and Jason Osterhaus opposing
The cemetery district is expected to help cover maintenance costs for the cemetery association.
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 within McCamish Township.
Rick Lind, of the Johnson County Legal Department 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.
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.
Del Sawyer, chairman of the cemetery association, said the cemetery has limited resources and struggles year-to-year to keep up on mowing and gravestone maintenance.
He said the cemetery has a savings account of $38,000 that generates about .75 percent interest. It can only use interest generated by the account.
Grave sites are sold for $400 each, but only two were sold in 2011.
“We need to find a way to keep the cemetery funded,” Sawyer told commissioners.
Before casting “no” votes, Ashcraft and Osterhaus said other solutions for funding the cemetery should be explored before forming a taxing district.
Lindstrom said he dissented because he was not comfortable with the maximum 2 mill authority.
“I don’t want to create another taxing district,” he said.
The cemetery association considered two other options before deciding to pursue the taxing district.
One option was to abandon the cemetery, and leaving it to the county to maintain.
The other option was to turn it over to the city.
Lind said the county commission’s approval opens 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.