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Cemeteries and Cemetery Administration

This page contains information on the administration of public cemeteries and cemetery districts in Washington State, including statutory authority and sample documents, as well as the regulation of private cemeteries.



Overview

Many cities and towns in Washington operate municipal cemeteries. Many other cemeteries are operated by cemetery districts.


General Cemetery Statutes

  • Title 68 RCW - Cemeteries, Morgues, and Human Remains
  • Ch. 68.52 RCW - Public Cemeteries and Morgues - Provides for county morgues, burial, cemetery acquisition and improvements, city and town cemetery boards, cemetery improvement funds, and the creation of cemetery districts.
  • Ch. 68.60 RCW - Abandoned and Historic Cemeteries and Historic Graves
  • RCW 68.20.080 - Provides that cities and counties may regulate private cemeteries
  • Title 98 WAC - Licensing, Department of (Cemetery Board)
  • Washington State Department of Licensing Cemetery Licensing
  • WAC 458-16-180 - Property Tax exemptions - Embalmers - Cemeteries

Municipal Cemeteries

At MRSC's last count, there were 77 cities and towns known to operate municipal cemeteries in Washington. Many municipal cemeteries are operated by the city parks department and maintained by the department's grounds personnel.


Cemetery Districts

Cemetery districts may also be established to maintain and operate local cemeteries, pursuant to RCW 68.52.090 - .330. The formation of these districts must be approved by voters, and the districts are governed by a board of three elected commissioners who serve staggered six-year terms (RCW 68.52.220).

Cemetery districts elections must conform with general election laws, except there is no primary election to nominate candidates. Instead, all candidates appear on the general election ballot, and the candidate receiving the largest number of votes for each position is elected (RCW 68.52.155).

Cemetery districts may levy a nonvoted property tax up to 11.25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value and may not contract indebtedness in any year exceeding the aggregate amount of the currently levied taxes (RCW 68.52.290; RCW 68.52.310). The county treasurer receives and disburses all district revenues and taxes using a dedicated cemetery district fund (RCW 68.52.280).

Cemetery districts may also levy one-year excess levies for operations and maintenance, subject to 60% voter approval and minimum validation (voter turnout) requirements (RCW 84.52.052 and Washington State Constitution, Article VII Section 2).

MRSC is aware of 104 cemetery districts in Washington State; for a complete list, download our List of Cemetery Districts (Excel spreadsheet).

For a map of these districts, see the State Auditor's Office page Explore Governments That Serve You. (Under "Choose a Mode," select "Government Type Mode," then click on "Cemetery District."


Disposal of Remains of Indigent Persons


Historic Preservation


Examples of Cemetery Documents

General Ordinance Provisions - Cemetery Board, Rules and Regulations, Fees

Historic Public Cemeteries

Cemetery Plans

  • Camas Cemetery Master Plan (2009) – Identifies five major goals regarding database/information system, service expectations, financial stability, maximizing property to meet future needs, and developing a strong volunteer/donation program.
  • Kirkland Cemetery Business Plan (2008) – Plan to increase cemetery revenue without substantially increasing costs; cemetery has no more burial plots remaining. Includes discussion of revenue and expenditure funds, costs of service, SWOT analysis, and debt service schedule.\
  • Mabton Parks and Cemetery Comprehensive Plan (2015) – Five-year plan includes community needs, desired improvements, and level of service goals.
  • Washougal Cemetery Operational Plan (2012) – 20-year plan includes improvements and phased projects to streamline customer service, enhance aesthetics, and address current trends in environmental awareness for maintenance methods and burial options.

RFPs/Bid Documents

Interlocal Agreements

Job Descriptions

Fee Schedules


Recommended Resources


Last Modified: May 26, 2021