SOUTH HAVEN — With the completion of $300,000 worth of improvements to Lakeview Cemetery this year, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the city of South Haven now wants to raise cemetery fees. However, that’s not the main reason rates will be increasing, especially for non-residents.
City council members on Monday voted to increase burial rates for local residents by 2.5 percent, while upping non-resident burial fees to four times the amount of what residents pay.
It’s not a matter of making non-residents who want to be buried in Lakeview Cemetery feel unwanted, it’s a matter of land limitation, according to Department of Public Works Director Bill Hunter.
“With every year, the City of South Haven loses capacity within our cemetery with each sale of a lot,” Hunter said. “There is logic to the four times cost increase to non-resident buyers. The increase would discourage non-residents from purchasing lots, saving those lots for future residents.”
The city council voted in 2017 to raise cemetery rates. After the fees were increased, it cost residents $537 to purchase a lot, $479 for a full burial and $111 for a cremation burial. Non-resident fees were roughly double or even triple what residents paid, depending on what they purchased. A lot in 2017 cost non-residents $1,610, a burial, $961 and a cremation $222.
Now their burial costs will quadruple across the board.
Non-residents will pay $2,204 for a lot, $1,965 for a burial and $455 for a cremation burial, while residents will pay $551 for a lot, $491 for a burial and $114 for a cremation burial.
The city began examining cemetery rates earlier this year when the cemetery board asked city staff to compare South Haven’s fees to other communities.
“City staff reached out to many communities but only received input from the City of Grand Haven,” Hunter said. “Grand Haven’s fees are comparable to the city’s, except the non-resident fees. Grand Haven’s non-resident fees are four times that of their resident fees.”
In May, staff discussed the possibility of raising the rates with the Parks Commission.
“We provided the Parks Commission with two options,” Hunter said. “Option one was to raise the existing fees by 2.5 percent. Option two was to raise the resident fees by 2.5 percent, and also, increase the non-resident fees by four times the amount of residential fees.”
The Parks Commission chose to go with the second option and made a recommendation to city council to go ahead and make the increases happen.
In addition to trying to conserve land in the cemetery, Hunter explained the cemetery is funded solely from general fund dollars. It does not receive funding from other sources.
The improvements made at the cemetery earlier this year included restoration of the stone wall at the cemetery’s entrance on Bailey Avenue, construction of a staircase on the western side of the cemetery, a new main entrance sign on Blue Star Highway, new yard hydrants, demolition of an old office building and landscaping work.