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Marengo Cemetery Board resigns amid budget debate

Shaw Media file photo
Shaw Media file photo

MARENGO – The entire Marengo Cemetery Board has resigned amid debate about whether the city should continue to contribute tax funding toward its operations.

The city has been considering whether to again pay the board a portion of its requested property tax levy after significantly reducing it for the past several years. The city paid $10,000 in fiscal 2017 with an option to escalate the payment to $15,000 this year.

The reduced payment had been $100 in previous years. The board operates on an unbalanced budget and has projected revenues of about $15,000 of its expenditures in the coming fiscal year, which has concerned several Marengo City Council members.

Cemetery Board member Brittany Richardson, who has appeared before the council multiple times for the discussions, said she is resigning in December, along with the other board members, because she isn’t happy with how communications have gone.

“It is obvious we will never come to a compromise,” she wrote in a memo to the city. “My efforts to coordinate with the City Council have not been reciprocated. Instead they’ve been dismissed and ignored. … I have remorse for the patrons of the cemetery. It’s unfortunate for them a resolution could not be established.”

The Cemetery Board oversees cemetery operations, including its employees and maintenance. The organization also coordinates with funeral homes and contractors on locating and preparing burial sites and sells plots to families, among other tasks. The Cemetery Board’s general fund balance sat at $216,000 in May 2016, and the board projects it will deplete to $146,000 in 2018, according to city documents.

At this point, the council is considering three possibilities, which include privatizing cemetery operations, appointing a new board that would operate similarly to the current board, or creating a hybrid option where city staff take on some of the cemetery duties, interim City Administrator Josh Blakemore said.

The Marengo City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at Marengo City Hall, 132 E. Prairie St., in a special meeting to continue discussion on the matter.

“Once we get a board together, I think we can get pretty specific on what our expectations and requirements are,” Mayor John Koziol said. “The longer we wait to get the board restaffed is going to hurt us in the long run.”

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