- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - After losing nearly $12,000 last year, the Natchez City Cemetery Association is exploring ideas to cut costs and generate funds to care for the 192-year old cemetery.

Cemetery Association Treasurer Nancy Kimbrell said the cemetery’s yearly financial report showed a loss of approximately $11,800.

The cemetery association’s annual operating costs are $257,000.

The association raises funds for beautification initiatives for the city-owned cemetery, such as the lighting project.

Kimbrell said higher expenses in recent years for lawn mowers, gas and other maintenance items has forced the association to use its fundraising money for operation and maintenance costs.

The cemetery association raised fees in March to help offset increased costs.

The city also increased its appropriation for the cemetery from $36,900 to $72,000 for the city’s current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. It had been 12 years since the cemetery received an increase in funding, Kimbrell said.

“It’s going to help with the city increasing our (funding),” she said. “Hopefully, we will not have to use our Angels on the Bluff money for operations. Hopefully, it will allow us to use the money we’ve worked so hard to fundraise to improve the cemetery.”

That is why, Kimbrell said, a group of women started the cemetery association in the 1930s.

“In the early years, the ladies would bring their yard men out there to work,” Kimbrell said, adding that the women wanted work done at the cemetery beyond what the city was doing.

“That’s why they started our perpetual care fund, and they put the money up themselves and then began getting donations from businesses.”

The cemetery association, Kimbrell said, hopes to get back to using fundraising money for beautifications, and is looking into cost-cutting measures, such as using inmate labor for maintenance work.

The cemetery association, which is made up of representatives from local churches, will likely discuss in the next couple of months potential costs of transportation, supervision and other expenses associated with using inmate labor, Kimbrell said. The association will then, she said, make a decision about whether inmate labor is right for the cemetery.

Kimbrell said the cemetery used local inmate labor previously, but that did not work out. She said the association is considering the idea of using inmates from Jefferson or other counties.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown has encouraged the idea of inmate labor. Brown’s wife, Shields, serves on the cemetery association board.

Brown also suggested the idea of the cemetery setting up a program through which residents could elect for a portion of their life insurance funds to be paid to the cemetery.

“I don’t expect it to generate a lot of money immediately, but it’s something that 20 years down the road could help (with perpetual care),” Brown said.

Kimbrell said the association will explore that idea as well as other ideas to solicit donations.

The cemetery received approximately $34,000 in donations from residents last year, and Kimbrell said the association is grateful for the community’s generosity.

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Information from: The Natchez Democrat, https://www.natchezdemocrat.com/

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