Cemetery board seeking funds
A lack of business has put the non-profit company that runs Oakwood Cemetery in south Baldwin in the need of financial help. While the revenue isn't coming in, the bills still are.
"The situation is we don't have any way of making any money except selling lots and burying people," said Joe Simunac, chairman of the board of the Baldwin Cemetery Company, which runs Oakwood.
"Last year we buried half as many people as usual," said Simunac. "Our expenses the last three or four years have been high. If we don't do business, we still have expenses."
Last year there were only 19 burials at Oakwood. Normally, there are 30 to 35 burials per year. Through July of this year, there have been around 20 burials, so it appears it will be more of a normal year.
But, it's those expenses the last several years that has the cemetery in a bind. Three years ago the roads throughout the area had to be resealed. Four years ago a new mower had to be purchased, but it has since fallen apart. Two years ago the split-rail fence around the cemetery had to be replaced.
Because of those items, the board decided to let the public know about the financial difficulties, hoping to spark contributions to keep the cemetery in business.
"We're strapped for cash. We can sell ground; bury people; or seek contributions. That's the only way we can generate money," he said. "The reason we're making a public appeal is because it's important to know who owns ground out there. We don't have any way to know the heirs of some of the land. If they have people buried out there, we wanted to let them know.
"We can't canvass those who have a vested interest in the cemetery, so we wanted to make a public appeal," he said.
The board has made changes at the cemetery recently to keep up with the times. The price of a cemetery space was raised from $200 to $400. Cost of burial went from $175 to $300. Those changes weren't made without a great deal of thought.
"We did a lengthy survey of cemeteries around the area and it showed that we weren't charging as much as others," said Simunac.
The only other operating money the cemetery receives comes from a fund required by the state. When someone is buried, $30 of the cost of burial goes into a fund to supply maintenance. The interest from that fund goes to the cemetery each year, which last year meant about $6,500.
"It's difficult to imagine keeping a plot maintained in perpetuity for $30," he said.
There is more expense involved than that. The board hires part-time help. The Sexton now is Gary Murray, who does a great job maintaining the grounds, according to Simunac.
"The Sexton we have now is really good," he said. "Gary feels like he owns the cemetery and he keeps it up real nice. We can't hire anyone full time because we can't pay enough."
Then there are other expenses and the recent jump in gasoline prices is an example. The cemetery has to be mowed and that takes money. Also, when the mower breaks down, the expenses go up, too. That's what happened to Oakwood just before one of its busiest times Memorial Day. Luckily, Heritage Tractor, the local John Deere dealership, helped out.
"Heritage came to our rescue and loaned us a mower," said Simunac. "The board decided to go ahead and buy the mower. We made the down payment, but we still have about $5,500 to go."
Board members beside Simunac are: Sandra Elliott (secretary-treasurer); Kermit Kalb; Roger Boyd; Claudia Hey; Joe Shumate; Judy Rohe; Ron Skaggs; and Janet Payne. Simunac said board members are hoping that Baldwin residents will want to make sure that Oakwood continues to be the beautiful cemetery it is.
"They can make cash contributions, which are tax deductible," he said.
Contributions can be made by sending checks payable to Oakwood Cemetery, P.O. Box 671, Baldwin City, KS, 66006. Simunac also said it's a smart time to make arrangements to buy space at the cemetery, too.
"If you've been waiting to buy space, now is the time because it will never be cheaper," he said. "Land prices are going up everywhere."
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