Department policy and legislative instruments acknowledge that cemetery trusts are best placed to determine the services required by the communities they serve and the appropriate level of fees for those services. Under s. 39 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003, cemetery trusts must, when fixing fees and charges, have regard to the costs of operating and managing any public cemetery for which they are responsible, and the need to provide for the maintenance of that public cemetery in perpetuity.
Under s.42A of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, the department's Secretary has established the Fees and charges guidelines for Class A cemetery trusts (the guidelines). The guidelines set out the public consultation requirements Class A cemetery trusts are to undertake when seeking to adjust fees above the annual consumer price indexation (CPI) or when introducing new products and services.
The role of the department in approving fees for cemetery services is to review applications for fee increases from cemetery trusts, in order determine that the basis for any proposed increase to fees and charges outside of CPI can be justified.
Annual consumer price index increase
Under s. 43 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, all trust fees of $50 or more are increased annually in accordance with CPI, unless a trust specifically requests and provides an acceptable argument why the increase should not be applied. The CPI increase is based on the All Groups Consumer Price Index number (for Melbourne) for the current December quarter. Fees increased by CPI are effective from 1 July each year.
Common chart of accounts
The Common chart of accounts has been developed to enable Class A cemetery trusts to determine the direct and indirect costs associated with providing their major services, maintaining the public cemeteries under their management, and to ascertain their short, medium and long-term cash flow needs.
Setting fees and charges
Under s. 39 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, a cemetery trust may fix fees and charges, or a scale of fees and charges, for its services. In fixing fees, a cemetery trust must have regard to the costs of operating and managing its public cemeteries, as well as the need to provide for the maintenance of the public cemeteries in perpetuity.
The Department of Treasury and Finance developed the Cost recovery guidelines to clarify the government's policy principles underpinning cost-recovery arrangements.
The Cost recovery guidelines provide a rigorous framework for use by government entities when considering, developing and reviewing user charges and regulatory fees. They ensure that cost-recovery arrangements in Victoria are transparent, efficient, effective and consistent with legislative requirements and government policy.
Approval of fees and charges
Under s. 40 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, a cemetery trust must make a formal application to the department for consent to make or vary its scale of fees. A cemetery trust must submit a fee application form, signed by three trust members. It should be accompanied by costing sheets, generated from the Common chart of accounts, for each proposed fee, to justify the extent of the increases sought.
Class A cemetery trusts are required to provide the following documents, generated through the Common chart of accounts, when submitting fee applications for departmental approval:
- fee-setting sheet
- service cost sheet
- assumptions sheet.
In addition to the costing information, Class A cemetery trusts must also provide evidence of the consultation undertaken, as per the guidelines.
The time taken from lodgement until approval of the fees by the department is approximately 3-10 weeks, providing the department does not need additional information from the trust regarding its application.
Under ss. 41 and 42 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, a notice of the approval of any amended or new cemetery fees must be published in the Victoria Government Gazette before the fees become effective. Cemetery trusts cannot charge any fee until a notice is published in the gazette.
Current fees for each Victorian cemetery trust can be accessed using the Cemetery search.
Applying the approved scale of fees
Under s. 44 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, a cemetery trust is required to charge its approved fees. Fees are only to be waived or reduced on grounds of extreme hardship or other special circumstances.
Exemption of fees and charges from approval
Under s. 40A of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, the department's Secretary may exempt specified fees and charges, or scales of fees and charges, from being approved under s. 40 if, in the Secretary's opinion, there is no public benefit in those fees and charges being approved.