The economics of a cemetery have always seemed a little off kilter to me. The cemetery makes money with the sale of burial plots but at some point, it will run out of real estate and, perhaps, money.
That’s what’s happening in Worthington, Minn., where a cemetery association won’t be able to make payroll by the end of the month at a 21-acre public cemetery.
A $275,000 perpetual care fund doesn’t provide enough interest income to cover the $60,000 of annual expenses.
What do you do with a cemetery that’s broke?
Tom Ahlberg, who heads the cemetery board, tells the Globe of Worthington that the question is keeping him up at night.
“We would like to keep it; we just can’t afford to keep operating as we are,” Ahlberg said. “We’re asking them [the city and/or Nobles County] to cover the shortfall, with a maximum per agency of $10,000. We would use our money first, but if we run into a shortfall, they would be there to back us.”
The oldest grave in the place is from 1872. A former Minnesota governor, a Civil War veteran, is buried there.
There are still plots for sale but he says there’s a problem: People don’t buy them until they need them and people live longer and don’t need them quite as regularly.
Ahlberg’s plan seems dead on arrival.
[edit to add]
“As long as the city and the county work together, I believe that we will help them stay in business as they are — that’s my feeling,” said Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson.
“It’s not the business of the city or the county to run a cemetery — that makes no sense for us,” he said. “I would hope all our constituents would agree with that.”