Funds run low as county pays for more pauper burials


Reporter - Lauren Adams
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. -  There is a wreath for a father and a handmade cross for a mother placed lovingly near two headstones.  Not much will be found in a small pauper cemetery on Wilmington Road, but the names found on these stones did not have much. All of the deceased were buried due in part to county funds.

Terry Vaughn's older brother, William was buried there in 2011.

Vaughn says he does not come to the cemetery often. But, he says, it is comforting to know his brother received a proper burial.

"I had to scrounge around, figure out what my budget was going to be," he said of using a month's salary to bury his brother.

As it turned out, that money was not enough.  That is when the county stepped in.  

For the 2009-2010 fiscal year, McCracken County buried 33 indigent people at a cost of $33,000.  The following year, the county spent $42,000 on burials.  In the 2011-2012 year, $41,000 was spent.

But in this fiscal year, which began in July, $33,000 has already been spent. It means the county has just $7,000 left to pay for burials.

"We are dangerously close to going over budget this year and we're still 4 months out until the end of the budget," McCracken County Coroner Danny Sims said.

He says it could mean cuts elsewhere in the county.

But under Kentucky law, it is his responsibility, "Regardless of their walk of life or situation, we respect them as human and we're gonna see they're appropriately taken care of."

It is what was done for William Vaughn and something his brother, Terry is grateful for.

"Burying my brother, that was tough enough," he said.

Several funeral homes in the area are also trying to keep costs low for the county.  Some are writing off anywhere from $30-40,000 a year to help bury the county's poor.