Tarrant County's bill for burials, cremations skyrockets



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Posted on April 29, 2014 at 10:09 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 30 at 8:01 AM

TARRANT COUNTY — If the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, then taxpayers in Tarrant County are getting hit hard by both.

According to county figures, more than $450,000 was spent on just under 550 burials or cremations last year through the county's burial assistance program.

Commissioner Andy Nguyen said the program's cost is starting to exceed what anyone imagined.

"Something has to change," he told News 8. "Within a year, or two, or three, it could go up to a million [dollars], or even more.”

The county made a presentation to Tarrant County Commissioners on Tuesday morning. It sparked a lengthy discussion and debate among commissioners about what to do next.

The county is proposing to offer only cremations from now on, which could reduce costs by at least 25 percent.

Dallas County only spends about $55,000 on its assistance program. The county donates the bodies to a medical university for study, and then cremates them.

Nguyen said Tarrant County will also look into partnering with a medical university, but he hopes to still permit burials in some cases.

"There has got to be a better option," he said.

Some type of assistance program is necessary because state law mandates that counties are ultimately responsible for disposing of "paupers."  The term refers to a very poor person. 

Some other Texas counties -- including Harris and Travis -- operate their own cemeteries. Nguyen said that might be an option for Tarrant County, but conceded initial costs would be high with such an idea.

Certain pesons -- including veterans, homicide victims or bodies weighing more than 800 pounds --  would be exempt from any new policy and still qualify for burials.

The county court should make a final decision within a couple of months.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com