A group of Onondaga County Lawmakers Tuesday advanced legislation that would eliminate the fee for veterans who choose to be buried at the county’s veteran’s cemetery. It currently costs $500 for a plot, and another $500 for a spouse or eligible dependent. County Executive Ryan McMahon mentioned during his state of the county address that the idea has been floated for awhile now. Legislature chairman Dave Knapp agrees that the time seems right.
"We've been talking for several years about waiving the fees for veterans to buy a plot. We have built up a pretty good fund over the years that will last quite a long time to help cover this."
It’s called the perpetual care fund, and it has $900,000 of accrued fees that are used when a veteran passes away and is buried. In addition to no longer charging incoming veterans, the plan also calls for reimbursing those who’ve already reserved a plot. But Chief of Staff with the county executive’s office Sue Stanczyk says money isn’t the biggest concern if more veterans choose to take advantage of the free plots.
"There's more of a chance that we'll run out of space before we run out of money in the perpetual care fund. There's a movement by national cemeteries to move to cremation only. We might have to do that in the future because space is limited."
She says the county is exploring the possibility of expanding the cemetery in the future. About 150 to 200 veterans are buried there every year. Officials say there could be a bump in that number if the burial fees are waived. The proposal passed unanimously out of committee, and could come before the full legislature next month.