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Cemetery struggling for funds

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By Calen McKinney

 

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Costs are up and income is down.

Brookside Cemetery Association President John Kessler says the cemetery needs help to maintain its grounds.

When graves are sold at Brookside today, he said, 20 percent of the cost goes into a perpetual care fund. But cemeteries can only spend the interest from that fund for upkeep.

Kessler said the cemetery at one time put all money made from the sale of burial plots into its perpetual care fund. But for the past few years, however, the cemetery has only been able to put the required 20 percent. The remaining 80 percent is used for upkeep.

And, as interest rates plummet, he said, the amount of money generated from the perpetual care fund to help pay for cemetery upkeep decreases, too.

When interest rates were at 5 and 6 percent, he said, interest collected from Brookside's perpetual care fund was able to pay for upkeep.

"At 1 percent, it doesn't," he said.

"You wouldn't think the economy would affect the cemeteries, but it does."

The interest collected today, Kessler said, pays for about a fifth of the cost to mow the cemetery. The rest has to come from the cemetery's general account. It takes about two weeks for a contractor to mow the cemetery.

Kessler said the costs to mow and keep Brookside looking nice have increased. But he said Brookside isn't alone in its struggles to pay for upkeep.

"That's a problem a lot of cemeteries have, those that are nonprofit," he said.

Kessler said those who purchased lots in the older section of the cemetery didn't have to pay perpetual care. The families of the deceased were to pay for upkeep each year. But now, many years later, most of those family members are now also deceased.

And when Brookside was formed and took over operation of the city's cemetery, perpetual care hadn't been included in the sale of the burial plots there.

In addition to the sale of burial plots, Kessler said, the association also receives donations to help keep the cemetery looking good.

On Sunday, the association hosted the second Ghost Tour of the cemetery. Local middle school students portrayed the ghosts of several prominent residents buried at Brookside.

Admission fees went to the cemetery and Hiestand House-Taylor County Museum. About 150 people attended the Ghost Tour. Nearly $600 was raised for the cemetery and $550 was raised for the museum.

Kessler said he encourages people who have family members or friends buried at Brookside to make a donation to help with upkeep.

"There's a lot of people that make donations," he said.

One donation received lately was from a woman who donated money to honor the birthday of someone buried at Brookside. And several people donate money to the cemetery each year.

"That's a good thing to do," he said.

Kessler said some people donate to cemeteries instead of giving flowers when someone dies. Donations to cemeteries are tax deductible, he said.

Kessler said the cemetery association is made up of people who have family members buried at the cemetery.

"Every one of us on the board has a genuine concern about the cemetery," he said.

Kessler said board members would like to do some upgrades to the older portion of the cemetery.

"We don't have the funding to do it with," he said.

Those who would like to help Brookside Cemetery can send donations to Brookside Cemetery Association, c/o John Kessler, P.O. Box 271, Campbellsville KY 42719.

Donations can also be taken to the local funeral homes, brought to Kessler at his business on East Broadway or to Bill Chandler, vice president of the cemetery association, at Chandler's Office Supply on Main Street.