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Cemetery eyes cost of living increases

Fees at Kelowna Memorial Cemetery are going to be going up January 1.

Council agreed to a recommendation that will see fees increase by two per cent across the board.

However, a new non-resident fee category will be introduced. Non-residents will pay 25 per cent above resident fees.

Council decided on the new fee instead of seeing fees jump 15 per cent across the board.

Parks Manager, Ian Wilson, told council three bids to an RFP on maintenance services at the cemetery far exceeded the current budget allotment - two of those also included yearly increases over three years.

"Fee increases were needed to maintain self sufficiency of the cemetery," says Wilson.

The fee increase would generate about $75,000 in 2014, offsetting cemetery operating costs according to Wilson.

The city introduced a self-sufficiency policy for the municipal cemetery in 1998, ending taxpayer subsidies that had reached about $50,000 a year.

Councillor Andre Blanleil voiced his displeasure over having to consider large increases as opposed to smaller, yearly, incremental increases.

"Can we not just automatically set a cost of living increase that becomes an automatic every year rather than getting behind and having to raise it 5% or 10%?" asked Blanleil.

"I really think it is important with an on-going way of keeping up with our costs so we don't get this situation where we have to change how we do things or it's going to be a 15% increase. I don't think that's great policy."

City Manager, Ron Mattiussi, informed Blanleil and council a city policy is being worked on that looks at fees and services across the city.

"We have been working on it based on a model out of Calgary that actually sets up the philosophy of how we structure our fees," says Mattiussi.

"Unfortunately it is complex but there is a policy that is being drafted that will come to council that will set out some of the policy framework that these decisions are made."

Mattiussi says he would be prepared to report back to council on the status of that report if council so wished.

Council passed that motion unanimously.

Meantime, a recommendation that would eliminate child internment fees at the cemetery altogether was applauded by council.

"I thought it was very sensitive that staff recommended eliminating the internment fee for the child burial," says Councillor Maxine DeHart.

"I am also pleased to see with the children there is no fee for that. It's such a traumatic time anyway that most people are not thinking about the costs of having to deal with the tragedy. That's nice and respectful of the type of issues people have to deal with," added Councillor Luke Stack.



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