Village of Geneseo
Temple Hill Cemetery asks Geneseo trustees for bailout
Recently-recruited Temple Hill Cemetery trustee Bob Kelsey was on the agenda of Monday’s Geneseo Village Board meeting, seeking money for the fiscally distraught cemetery which, he stated, is losing $15,000 a year.
The village is one of several sources from which the Cemetery Association is soliciting this year. Earlier, a $3,000 contribution was received from the Town of Geneseo.
In the event of Cemetery Association insolvency, town government is bound under state law to take on cemetery ownership and maintenance responsibilities (with minimum modest mowing requirements of three times a year.)
The Association paid for the insertion of a letter of solicitation in a recent Genesee Valley Pennysaver, targeted at the Geneseo Post Office zip code. The letter has yielded a respectable $5,500 in contributions to date.
Village Trustee Bob Wilcox asked Kelsey if the Association was approaching families of those buried in the cemetery with this same request for financial assistance — and also wanted to know why the Association wasn’t charging more for its burial plots. Kelsey answered that there has been some solicitation from families, but the cemetery must “keep its plot prices competitive” with other cemeteries if it wants to attract any amount of that business.
Sale of plots is the main source of self-earned revenue for the cemetery, Kelsey advised (making no mention of trust fund income which in earlier times supported cemetery maintenance.) Kelsey added that the increasing practice of cremation has cut deeply into the cemetery’s burial plot income.
Wilcox noted that another local cemetery has raised its price for one-foot-square creation burial plots from $100 to $500 in just the past decade.
Trustee Sandra Brennan wondered if the village might help out the cemetery by donating a surplus lawn mower which otherwise would be sold at auction.
Mayor Richard Hatheway cautioned about the legality of such a gift, since the Cemetery Association is a private institution. He is under the impression that the private status forbids donations of public property. Hatheway is also concerned that such a gift might set off a chain reaction, provoking calls from other local cemeteries, such as the St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, for even-handed treatment.
However, Kelsey is of the understanding that a recent change in state law — meant to deter the forced ownership of cemeteries by town governments — legalizes gifts from outside governments, just as it does for outright cash gifts. Kelsey noted that Temple Hill is indeed a “public” cemetery in the sense that it accepts any person from any background for burial.
The mayor said he will check with Village Attorney Tom Reynolds on this question.
Temple Hill Cemetery, established in 1807, occupies 15 acres of land in the Village of Geneseo. It has 6,000 burials, with another 1,000 plots still available. The present cost of a full-size burial plot is $500.