If this year's numbers stay on pace, the cremation rate will exceed the burial rate in New Jersey for possibly the first time ever.

Numbers received this week by New Jersey 101.5 from the state Department of Health show that to date in 2017, 51 percent of deceased bodies have been disposed through the process of cremation — turning them to ashes — compared to a burial rate of 49 percent. Figures prior to 2006 are not electronically searchable.

The department's numbers show the state's cremation rate has increased every year since at least 2006, from 33.1 percent then to 49.3 percent in 2016.

Nationally in 2016, cremation topped burial for the second straight year.

According to Adam Guziejewski, deputy executive director of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association, consumer feedback surveys on the national level show families or individuals have gradually moved to cremation for a number of reasons — one of them being cost.

The route also offers families the convenience of holding a memorial service weeks or months down the line, and the opportunity to spread the deceased's ashes, while a pre-burial service would need to occur in the immediate days following one's passing.

"Some people might think it's just the way to go in terms of their belief that we'll eventually run out of space for burials," Guziejewski said.

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Unlike other states, funeral homes in New Jersey do not make money off the act of cremation or burial. Those charges come from a crematorium or cemetery.

While the average cost of an urn is typically much less expensive than that of a casket, Guziejewski said the increasing cremation rate does not necessarily translate into a revenue issue for funeral homes.

"You can still have a viewing if the person will ultimately be cremated. You can still have a casket if the person will ultimately be cremated," he said.

Kevin Moran, funeral director at the Michael Hegarty & John Vincent Scalia Home for Funerals and Cremation Services in Old Bridge, said some families associate cremation with no funeral, but use of a funeral home and the services available are not determined by the mode of disposition.

'Cremation Services' was added to the facility's name when it was purchased from the previous owners nearly two years ago.

"If you're going to have a cremation with a visitation and a church service, the costs compared to a burial are almost identical," Moran said. "I've had people buy a casket for $700. I've had people spend $1,500 on an urn."

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.