AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin City Council voted Thursday to amend a contract to increase funding for city cemetery operations at the five city-owed cemeteries in Austin. 

The amended contract will give up to $11 million to the Parks Department and a burial services contractor to provide cemetery services for the next decade. The additional money will help the department overcome lingering economic issues from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“A lot of folks have been facing [similar challenges] over these last few years,” said Jason Walker, interim division manager for cemetery operations with the department. “They include staffing issues, there was a hiring freeze, which prevented us from hiring staff and then also training that staff,” he continued. 

Additionally, like in many other industries, Austin Cemetary Operations dealt with supply chain issues, making it difficult for the department to get all the necessary equipment. 

Walker said these pandemic-related economic difficulties led to some logistical and maintenance challenges but never resulted in burial services delays. 

“We’re hoping that [the contract] will allow us the time. That’s what we’re seeking –  the time to train,” he said.

Walker said there are around 250 cemeteries in Travis County and roughly 50 in Austin. The city oversees the operation of five: Oakwood Cemetery, Oakwood Annex, Evergreen Cemetery, Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, Plummers Cemetery; and quarterly maintenance of a historic family cemetery located in Longview Park, according to City Council backup.

There are around 80,000 grave sites in the five city-owned cemeteries, and the Oakwood Cemetery, located in northeast Austin, is the oldest in the city limits.