Fort St. John city council voted Monday to increase cemetery fees starting in 2020.
The city will raise fees to be in line with average pricing in comparable nearby communities next year, and then raise fees 5% plus the cost of inflation annually between 2021 and 2025.
It’s the first increase in a decade as demand for cemetery space and services in the city continues to grow. The cost of an adult plot will rise from $400 to $670 in 2020, not including other fees; the cost for a columbarium niche will rise from $100 to $220.
Coun. Gord Klassen declared a conflict of interest as he works at a local funeral home and did not vote.
The city’s current fees are significantly less than neighbouring communities, and taxpayers have been subsidizing cemetery operations anywhere between 50 to 65% over the last three years.
Still, subsidies to the cemeteries are expected to increase over the next five years even with the fee increases, totalling an estimated $1.66 million through to 2025. Much of that accounts for planned expansions that are already underway, and will require more staffing and other services.
The city operates two cemeteries: the Fort St. John Cemetery on 100 Avenue and the Woodlawn Cemetery near the Links golf course.
The city examined cemetery fees in Dawson Creek, Terrace, Yellowknife, and Grande Prairie. The cost to bury a person was the highest in Grande Prairie, at more than $2,000 for a full adult interment.
Fee increases were recommended in the cemetery master plan, completed in 2016, which noted it cost an average of $3,000 per interment between 2012 and 2016. Cemetery operations are predicted to cost taxpayers $438,000 a year by 2037, according to the plan.
An updated city's cemetery bylaw and fee schedule will be drafted and presented for formal approval later this month.
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