By Matthew Liebenberg
Some Swift Current cemetery fees will remain unchanged over the next two years, because they are already among the highest in the province.
However, there will be annual fee increases in categories for which the City of Swift Current’s fee structure is average or below average compared to other urban municipalities.
Council members approved the proposed cemetery fees during the regular council meeting, Jan. 23. The revised fee structure is for the period Feb. 1, 2023 to Jan. 31, 2025.
“Unfortunately all things come down to budgets or you have to consider budgets in all things, including cemeteries and interments and disinterments and all of those sorts of things,” Councillor Ryan Plewis remarked during the discussion. “These are things that get discussed around council tables when it comes to budget time. So obviously I think it’s probably not the wrong direction to go in terms of where we’re trying to set our budget.”
City General Manager of Community Services Jim Jones said annual revenue from municipal cemetery operations are directly related to the number of interments. The four main sources of cemetery revenue for the City are the sale of lots/plots, burial fees, sale of niches, and monument permits.
Actual income in all four these categories during 2022 was lower than the projected income. He noted that municipal cemeteries with higher recovery levels will have additional revenue sources, such as a perpetual care fund and the sale of items such as concrete foundations, vaults, liners, markers, columbaria inscriptions and urns.
“The sale of cemetery items can bring in supplemental revenues, but is more commonly offered by larger municipal and private cemeteries,” he said. “Although this endeavour was considered by the City in the past, it was avoided, so as to not be in direct competition with local private cemeteries, nor incur the associated costs for storage and additional equipment.”
The City’s recovery rate for cemetery services was 113.5 per cent of the budgeted revenue income in 2021.
“The increase in revenue was partially due to the COVID restrictions from 2020 being withdrawn,” he said.
However, the recovery rate in 2022 was only 65 per cent of the budgeted amount. For the period 2013 to 2022 the actual recovery rates varied from a low of 64 per cent in 2020 to a high of 123 per cent in 2017. Recovery rates were higher than 100 per cent on the projected income in four of the 10 years.
City Parks Manager Michael Newell told the meeting the intention is to recover what it costs to operate the cemeteries in Swift Current.
“On the one side we’re providing for families in the community and on the flip side we’re taxpayer funded,” he said. “So we want to make sure that we try to reach that break-even point.”
Jones noted the cemetery fees in Swift Current are in most categories average or slightly below average compared to the fees in other urban municipal cemeteries in Saskatchewan. This is not the case for interment and disinterment fees, which are among the highest. The fees for those services will therefore not increase for 2023 and 2024.
There will be an annual increase of four per cent in the fees for lots and niches for 2023 and 2024, effective on Feb. 1 in each year. The City is also introducing a new double cremation lot fee.
“Currently, the City’s cremation lots allow only for the interment of a single cremation,” he explained. “In future developments, larger cremation lots would be created. This would allow two cremation interments on a single lot.”
Council approves motion for municipal revenue sharing eligibility:
The City of Swift Current will comply with all the eligibility requirements to receive municipal revenue sharing funds from the provincial government.
Council members approved a resolution to confirm the City is complying with the various requirements.
“I think it’s pretty important we dot all our i’s and cross all our t’s here,” Mayor Al Bridal said.
City General Manager of Corporate Services Kari Cobler told the meeting the City received just over $3 million from the municipal revenue sharing grant program in the previous fiscal year.
The City is complying with all the following requirements to receive funding: Submission of the 2021 audited financial statements and the 2021 public reporting on municipal waterworks to the Ministry of Government Relations, it is in good standing on reporting and remittance of education property taxes, the City has adopted a council procedures bylaw and an employee code of conduct, and all City council members have filed and annually updated their public disclosure statements.