In its 2019 budget, the State Legislature allocated $2 million for the abandonment fund, which helps towns cope with the cost of maintaining abandoned cemeteries. Yet as the number of towns burdened with maintaining abandoned cemeteries continues to increase, $2 million dollars will likely fall well-short of what is needed, despite being twice what was allocated the year before. In fact, there are already $1.6 million in pending claims, despite the fiscal year only starting on April 1, 2019.
This issue of abandoned cemeteries is not new, but the severity of the situation is growing. According to recent news reports, the Division of Cemeteries reports 170 cemeteries have failed since 1990. However, the New York State Association of Cemeteries puts the number closer to 300, with as many as 50 more at risk. The situation is particularly bad in western New York. The Town of Eden, south of Buffalo, has already been forced to take over seven cemeteries, and at nearly $2,500 an acre annually, the costs are piling up.
The increased appropriation for the abandonment fund is clearly a positive development for towns burdened with abandoned cemeteries. However, with money already running out, it may only be a matter of time before the situation once again becomes dire.