An informational presentation to Airdrie City council April 6 recommended increased cemetery fees, along with the potential of expanding cemetery space to accommodate demand.
“The City’s intent for this study was to plan for the efficient ongoing operation and development of Airdrie Cemetery with a seamless transition to a new cemetery as needs dictate,” said Archie Lang, manager of parks and public works with the City.
The delegation to council was made by Fraser Drysdale, a consultant with GSP group, which specializes in cemetery analysis and planning.
His presentation contained seven recommendations for Airdrie’s cemetery. Of the seven, two significant recommendations include the need for Airdrie to acquire 10 to 40 acres of land for future cemetery development within the next eight years, along with expanding prices “to reach parity with comparable municipalities.”
“Once parity is reached, it is important to ensure price increases at least keep with inflation,” Drysdale’s report stated.
Another recommendation called for an increased cost for services from non-residents of Airdrie, as tax dollars fund cemetery operations. According to Drysdale’s report to council, residents pay for the operation of the cemetery based on their tax assessments.
Furthermore, Airdrie citizens who have purchased interment rights have paid a maintenance fee that is designated to offset cemetery maintenance costs.
“There has been municipal tax roll subsidy of Airdrie Cemetery averaging $5,500 per year over the last 10 years,” Drysdale’s report stated. “Non-residents have not contributed tax revenue to the operation of Airdrie Cemetery.”
Drysdale said many regional cemeteries, including ones in Cochrane and Okotoks, are now charging premiums to non-residents to offset the operating costs of the municipally tax-supported facilities.
He added instituting a non-resident premium of 100 per cent “would go a substantial way” to bringing Airdrie Cemetery’s prices in line with Rocky View County’s.
“Note that non-resident premiums would only apply to the sale of interment rights,” his report stated. “All other cemetery services and products should be supported by the prices charged for them.”
There is concern for long-term residents who might move away from Airdrie to enter retirement homes or for other reasons, according to Drysdale, who said council should consider updating its Cemetery Bylaw to accommodate these scenarios
“If non-resident premiums were to be instituted, the Cemetery Bylaw should be amended to define a resident,” he said. “An equitable definition might include current residents and those who had established prior residency for a specified period of time – perhaps 10 years. This would allow those previous residents who moved away to purchase interment rights at the resident rate.”
Coun. Kelly Hegg thanked Drysdale for bringing up the possible solution of a non-residential increase.
“There are people that, whatever reason, may have to move to another municipality but still have the desire to be buried in Airdrie,” he said. “That is something I would be in favour of if we needed to address that in the bylaw.”
During council’s discussion, Deputy Mayor Ron Chapman voiced his opposition to a non-residential rate increase, arguing many people who live in Airdrie's outskirts in Rocky View County consider themselves residents of the city.
“Just because they don’t live in Airdrie, they would be charged an extra fee and their family would be expected to go to a cemetery [owned by RVC] east of Calgary?”
Lang, manager of parks and public works with the City, responded that at this point in time, that would be the scenario, as those residents pay taxes to RVC, not the City of Airdrie.
After discussion, council accepted the report for information.