Many cities have the responsibility of maintaining a cemetery as well as handling funds for perpetual care cemeteries. It is important for city officials to know the laws and regulations of cemeteries to help ensure they are managing them successfully.
Code of Iowa Chapter 523I contains many of the laws related to cemeteries, including provisions on perpetual care cemeteries. It also designates a state agency, the Regulated Industries Unit of the Iowa Insurance Division, to administer the laws and oversee cemetery operations. This includes handling permit applications for cemeteries, which can be done online, and annual reports from perpetual care cemeteries.
Cities have the right to manage city-owned cemeteries within the parameters of Chapter 523I. Cities may adopt rules that detail the hours of operation, the sale of plots and maintenance standards of the cemetery. They can also regulate the placement and types of memorials. Any such rules must be available to the public and specify the city’s obligations for damaged or defaced interment spaces and memorials. City-owned cemeteries also must adopt a rule allowing any veteran who lives in the city to purchase an interment space.
Perpetual Care Cemetery Funds
Cities that own and operate perpetual care cemeteries must place money received from operations into the Permanent Fund. The city is allowed to invest those funds in compliance with Code Section 12B.10, which sets forth public investment fund standards. Income from perpetual care funds is to be used for the care and maintenance of the cemetery. Records of income and expenditures must be maintained, but in most cases the income from the fund is less than the costs related to care and maintenance.
Perpetual care funds are commonly used for the cost of mowing and trimming around memorials along with other regular maintenance needs, such as tools and equipment needed for cemetery operations and compensation for employees who work in the cemetery. The income may also be used to repair and maintain existing structures and for the expenses related to roads and pathways. Using the fund for improvements may also be appropriate, such as constructing a building to store maintenance equipment would be related to care and maintenance.
All perpetual care cemeteries must file an annual report with the Regulated Industries Unit, which can be done online.
Protection of Cemeteries and Burial Sites
Code Section 523I.316 provides the framework for what a city must do if notified of the existence of a cemetery or marked burial site within its jurisdiction. They must notify the owner of the land where the cemetery or burial site is located and include an explanation of the state law. If it is believed that the site is more than 150 years old, the city must notify the state archaeologist.
For cemeteries or burial sites within a city that are not being preserved, the city must preserve and protect the site as necessary to restore or maintain its physical integrity. The city may contract with the property owner or a public or private organization to maintain the site.