By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Cost of living got you down? The cost of dying is going up, too.
The Oxford Board of Aldermen on Tuesday suspended sales of plots in Oxford Memorial Cemetery, except where deaths create an immediate need, until they can decide on a proposed ordinance to increase the price of gravesites.
If the proposal is adopted as expected, prices per grave would rise from the current $300 for anyone to $700 for Oxford residents and $1,000 for nonresidents – a change Mayor Pat Patterson said is necessary for fiscal responsibility.
“Cemetery maintenance costs us about $125,000 a year,” he said. The job takes five full-time employees in summer, besides equipment, fuel and other costs.
“We’re below market on (gravesite prices),” Patterson said. “That’s where this money is going.”
Several thousand gravesites have been sold during the cemetery’s existence, and the majority are already occupied. Patterson said at present rates of sale the remaining 700 to 900 plots could all be claimed in two to three years, so the proposed ordinance will also limit any individual to buying six gravesites.
Patterson said while any decision to open another municipal burial ground after the current one is filled would be up to the Board of Aldermen, he does not recommend it because of maintenance costs.
Area residents are not without burial options, however. Oxford’s two largest funeral homes have cemeteries outside town that will accommodate several thousand graves each.