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Franklin County considers reducing payments, services for indigent burials

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MALONE –– A committee looking at the costs of indigent burials in Franklin County has proposed a new fee and services schedule in an effort to reduce costs borne by taxpayers.

Indigent burials are for those who die without family or whose family members are unable to pay for their funeral services. The county spends significantly more on these types of burials than do several surrounding counties.

Late last year, the county Legislature created a committee to look for ways to reduce the amount the county spends on indigent burials.

Legislators Carl Sherwin, D-Malone and Donald Dabiew, D-Bombay, met with Department of Social Services Commissioner Lesley Lyon, DSS Director of Financial Assistance Jannelle Reome, Mike Leonard of the Spaulding Funeral Home and Joe Bruso of the Bruso-Desnoyers Funeral Home on March 26 to discuss a new plan for the burials.

Mr. Sherwin and Mr. Dabiew presented the new plan to their fellow legislators at their meeting Thursday.

Mr. Sherwin said that during the March 26 meeting, committee members looked at Franklin County’s costs for indigent burials and compared them to those of surrounding counties.

Mr. Dabiew said that they looked at St. Lawrence County’s and Essex County’s plans for indigent burials. Franklin County’s costs were significantly higher.

Mr. Dabiew said that the county pays roughly $100,000 a year for indigent burials and that the plan proposed by the committee could save the county roughly $40,000 to $50,000 a year.

Mr. Lyon had previously said that until recently, most indigent burials were for people who died without any family to pay for their service, but now families use the service since children are not legally required to pay for the parents’ services.

The county paid for 76 indigent burials in 2012. Of that total, the county was fully reimbursed by the state fortwo through the Family Assistance program. The remaining 74 were covered under the state Safety Net program, meaning the county was reimbursed for 21 percent of the costs up to $900.

Some of the changes contained in the new plan include reducing the amount paid for a burial without services from $2,175 to $1,850. The plan also limits the cost of the burial plot to no more than $400. Cremation costs would go from $2,850 to $1,400 without services or to $1,850 with services. The cost of the receiving container for anyone cremated would be included in the county’s payment. However, burial of cremains would longer be paid for, except in cases in which the deceased has no family. Music and clergy will no longer be paid for.

“We want to treat these folks with dignity; we want to be able to manage it economically without it being a financial burden to the burial services and we do not want to put these guys out of business,” said Mr. Sherwin.

Chairman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, asked that a committee meeting be set up to talk about the proposal and have Reome come in to explain the new plan before the Legislature votes. The committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 22.

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