Schenectady County

Funeral directors: Fee hike for death certificates unfair

An extra $10 is an unreasonable burden to place on a grieving family, funeral directors said in resp

An extra $10 is an unreasonable burden to place on a grieving family, funeral directors said in response to a price change for Schenectady death certificates.

The certificates now cost $10. But if the City Council approves a proposed price increase, those who want certificates immediately must pay $20. Those who are willing to wait two weeks can still get them for $10.

David Ditoro, funeral director for Rossi & Ditoro, said two weeks isn’t usually a burden.

“Most families can wait a couple weeks. I just find it offensive,” he said of the cost increase. “It’s a creative way for the city of Schenectady to search for money. Unfortunately it’s on the backs of the grieving families.”

And some families do need certificates immediately. If the deceased was the family’s breadwinner, they might need to file for life insurance and other benefits as soon as possible to avoid financial problems.

Tom Verret, funeral director at DeMarco-Stone Funeral Home, said the cost for quick certificates is unreasonable.

At last Tuesday’s public hearing on the topic, he said he normally purchases four to six certificates for a family immediately.

“If enacted, the family that needs five death certificates immediately to accomplish what I stated before would be charged $100 instead of $50. Or they wait up to two weeks to receive the certificates at the $50 price. Is that what you want to do to families in their time of need?” he asked. “If a family realized they all of a sudden needed three additional copies, they would have to pay $60 to receive them that day.”

But he added that he would advise families to avoid the cost by purchasing fewer instant certificates and waiting to see if they need more later.

City Clerk Chuck Thorne said he didn’t understand why funeral homes would be buying so many certificates at once anyway.

“Buy what you need — why would you do otherwise?” he said. “I mean, if people are going to buy fewer, I don’t see that as a bad thing. You don’t need six copies in your files.”

Verret adamantly disagreed.

“Our customers currently receive superior service from the City Clerk’s office and we do not want anything to change that,” he said.

Thorne said he wants that, too.

“If we can’t support ourselves here, and we have to cut staff. we won’t be able to do that anymore,” he said. “Costs can’t stay still forever.”

He added that he didn’t see a $10 increase as a huge expense.

“And they do have an option. The option is to wait,” he said. “Everything doesn’t have to be done on that first day. When are you applying for that life insurance policy? When are you probating the will? That stuff is not done before the funeral, usually.”

But Ditoro said the fee doesn’t make sense.

Thorne has defended it as a way to save time because clerks can go into the vault to collect many certificates for copying at once, rather than doing them one at a time.

Ditoro said finding a recent death certificate should not take much time, and argued that there’s no reason to charge more if the customer wants more than one copy of the certificate. The original is copied onto watermarked, security paper.

“Right there, behind the counter, is a copy machine. Does it really matter if you hit a one or a nine?” he said. “It’s a photocopy. It’s just crazy they’re even thinking about this.”

Thorne said Ditoro isn’t aware of the costs of maintenence, materials and the monthly usage fees he must pay for the copier.

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