TEMPERANCE — Bedford Township’s cemetery operating fund, which is deep in deficit, will be merged with the township’s general fund until revenue from the sale of burial plots picks up and it can be self-sustaining.
The township board approved the bookkeeping maneuver last week, following the advice of its outside auditor and after the state rejected the township’s five-year deficit elimination plan for the cemetery fund. The transfer becomes effective July 1.
The township set up the cemetery fund in 2011 to finance the new 14-acre Bedford Memorial Gardens at the southeast corner of Lewis Avenue and Samaria Road. The cemetery was needed because existing township cemeteries had run out of plots.
Construction at the time was estimated to cost $450,000, which was borrowed from the township’s sewer operations and maintenance fund. Treasurer Paul Francis explained that sales of the cemetery’s 10,000 burial sites were supposed to service that debt and keep the fund solvent.
So far, 228 burial sites have been sold, and revenues have fallen short of what is needed to keep the fund in the black. The fund’s losses for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 were, respectively, $64,893 and $430,300. The 2011 loss ballooned because it included the cemetery's construction expenses.
Mr. Francis said the switch would reduce the township’s general fund balance by about $500,000. Total borrowing from the sewer fund amounted to $550,000, he added. He noted that the township made the same kind of transfer with its building inspection fund a few years ago when new construction dried up.
Mr. Francis emphasized that the township would still owe this money to itself under the new arrangement, and would continue to repay it with interest. “The money must be paid back,” he said. The loan’s borrowing cost is 2 percent.
In other business at its regular meeting, the board agreed to look at how the township might reduce the cost of its payroll services.
Bedford currently outsources this work for $4,300 annually. Trustee Paul Pirrone has raised the issue in past meetings, wondering if moving the work in-house would be more efficient.
Clerk Trudy Hershberger estimated that the software alone for an in-house payroll operation would cost $12,000 to $14,000. Annual maintenance costs she estimated at $2,400. Cutting payroll checks at the township hall also would be less secure, she noted, because “payroll is on their server, not the township server.”
Mr. Pirrone also wondered if the township could save money by soliciting bids for its custodial work at the township hall.
Cookie Pasko, a Temperance resident, has cleaned the current township hall and its predecessor since 1969. She charges $1,400 a month and spends two weekends a month cleaning the building. Board members agreed she has always done a good job.
She told the board that she did not consider herself overpaid, and that the cost of her cleaning supplies has risen steadily. Trustee Nancy Tienvieri will study the matter.
Mr. Pirrone also expressed doubt about the $300 the township pays George Welling to videotape each board meeting, and asked if the money was well spent.
But Mr. Welling explained that an unmanned, stationary camera did not afford viewers the same experience as a camera with an operator. A fixed camera could not close in on a speaker’s face. “People want to see you talking. They want to see your message,” he said.
Mr. Welling said he had been taping the meetings for more than 10 years and has not raised his price in that time. The meetings are shown live on BuckeyeCable System in the township and recorded on a DVD. It is shown at 9 a.m. the Wednesday after the meeting and 7 p.m. the next day.
Mr. Pirrone and other board members said they were satisfied with the explanation.