$20M budget, styrofoam ban, police and fire funding on Monday’s Athol Town Meeting warrant

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 6/7/2019 9:55:30 PM
Modified: 6/7/2019 9:55:17 PM

ATHOL — Voters will gather Monday night to make their way through a 28-article annual Town Meeting warrant. The budgets of the Athol Royalston Regional School district and of municipal government, as well as a proposal to ban restaurants from using styrofoam and certain plastic ware are likely to generate the most amount of discussion.

Town Manager Shaun Sushoski and the Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee are recommending passage of a town budget of just over $20 million. This amount includes more than $4.7 million for the school district.

At an earlier meeting of the Select Board, Suhoski said, “The proposal would maintain services. There are no layoffs, which is good. It will enhance education funding by meeting the educators’ assessment of both the Athol Royalston and Montachusett regional school district. It restores command structure to the Police Department with three sergeants and one lieutenant.”

Suhoski also cobbled together a budget which will fund the addition of a firefighter/EMT to the Fire Department. Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera had asked Suhoski to find the money to hire a full complement of four firefighters to better cover all shifts and reduce the amount of overtime but, said the town manager, “the available resources are not there.” He added that he and Guarnera had filed grant applications in hopes of obtaining the funds necessary to supplement staffing at the department.

The Athol Royalston Regional School District Committee has constructed a $24.7 million budget for FY20, which includes the $4.7 million sought from local taxpayers in Suhoski’s budget. Royalston’s share of the budget, just over $617,000, was approved by voters at the annual town meeting in that community last month.

Athol will be paying 5.84 percent more for education this year, while Royalston’s share of the district budget jumped over 10.1 percent. The total of $24.7 million represents an increase of about $571,000 over the spending package for the current fiscal year.

The school FY20 school budget includes increases of just over $111,000 in teaching costs, more than $251,000 for fixed costs and insurance, and more than $158,000 in tuition, which includes school choice and special education.

The last item on the warrant, Article 28, would, as the article states, “prohibit the use and distribution of food service ware that is not compostable or recyclable.” Restaurants would have to replace those items with others that are capable of being composted or recycled.

The article also calls for a ban on the use of styrofoam (foam polystyrene) containers, including cups and trays, as well as solid plastic items that “are not marked with a universal recycling number.” It encourages businesses to instead use utensils and other items that can be reused.

The ban would not cover private use of styrofoam or non-recyclable plastics; items, for example, that could be used when a family packs up for a picnic lunch.

Any food services establishment that violates the regulation, officially referred to as the Polystyrene Reduction Bylaw, would receive a warning for a first offense. A second offense would carry a fine of $25. A $50 fine would be levied for a third and subsequent offense.

The annual town meeting gets under way at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall at the town hall.

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