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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Metamora cemetery tax to be on ballot

  • Township trustee Mike Sluga said Oakwood Cemetery is a beautiful asset to the community.

    Keeping it that way became the responsibility of the township — and the taxpayers — at least to some extent.
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  • Township trustee Mike Sluga said Oakwood Cemetery is a beautiful asset to the community.
    Keeping it that way became the responsibility of the township — and the taxpayers — at least to some extent. 
    “We’re just trying to perpetuate the care of it. We would hate to see it allowed to go up in weeds and become a mess,” Sluga said. 
    The township took ownership of the cemetery last July at its annual meeting. The previous owner, the seven-member Oakwood Cemetery Board, transferred the deed in hopes that the shortfall it had experienced in recent years could be supplemented by public funds.
    The issue will be included on the March 18 ballot when voters will approve or reject a proposed 0.2-percent tax levy to “control, maintain and purchase land and construction of necessary buildings for cemeteries.”
    The 0.2 percent is a limit on the levy, but the township intends to tax a lower amount. Rather, they want the levy to be there when and if the day arrives that the cemetery needs more funding.
    “We’re not anticipating taxing anywhere near that,” Sluga said.
    If the entire 0.2 tax was levied for the cemetery, it would cost the owner of a home assessed at $100,000, $6.66 per year. Township leaders don’t anticipate needing more than a 0.1-percent tax levy, or $3.33 for a $100,000 home. 
    The township already owns the cemetery and is therefore responsible for the upkeep.
    “We would have to raise the general fund to pay for the cemetery. That’s why we’re trying to get a separate fund so they know exactly where their money is being used,” Sluga said. 
    Bob Murphy, president of the Oakwood Cemetery Board, said several factors, including state regulations on how funds can be spent, an increase in cremations and investing in low-paying CDs depleted the cemetery’s operating budget.
    At one time, the cemetery saw 25 to 30 burials a year. Recently, the average has been closer to 12 to 15. 
    “It’s a series of things that have brought us to this over about 10 years,” Murphy said. “I would say that what we’re experiencing is true of every cemetery of the area.”
    Mowing alone, Murphy said, costs about $9,000 each year, while grave sales are just shy of that number. 
    Page 2 of 2 - Also, the state mandate that a certain percentage of graves sales be put in a perpetual care fund restricts how those funds can be used. 
    “We don’t need a lot of tax dollars. We just need a little to make us up so we don’t go in the red,” he said. 
    The cemetery, Murphy said, has graves more than 200 years old that are maintained and restored when needed. 
    “When you think about the cemetery going back to 1869, there’s a lot of history in that cemetery dealing with the township of Metamora and the area around us,” Murphy said. 
    The cemetery board, which was reduced from seven volunteers to three, will continue to oversee day-to-day operations at the cemetery. If the tax is imposed, plot prices likely will be reduced for township residents. 
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