LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Township Committee swore in a new committeeman Thursday night to replace Scott Stites, who resigned last month amid criminal charges.
But then it took a substantial verbal beating from parents and school faculty for voting to recommend the district cut an additional $300,000 from its defeated $28 million budget, thus ignoring the pleas of Superintendent Frank Kasyan to delay the vote so it could have an opportunity to discuss the impact of such cuts with the Board of Education.
And, after all that, it voted to recommend the Pinelands Regional Board of Education cut its budget by $875,000 and also authorized Administrator Garrett Loesch to implement layoffs and furloughs.
Edward Nuttall, 67, was chosen from a trio of candidates - that also included Ann McDonald and Jeremy Price - that was recommended by the township's Republican County Committee.
Nuttall, who is chairman of the township Planning Board, is a real estate broker who has owned and operated Home Port Agency on Radio Road since 1987.
Prior to that, Nuttall - a decorated Vietnam War veteran - served in the New Jersey Air National Guard, in which he achieved the rank of major. He also served on the Pinelands Regional Board of Education for five years.
"I've always been interested in improving the quality of life here in Little Egg Harbor," said Nuttall, who lives in the Mystic Island section of the township and has two children and five grandchildren. "But the prime reason I decided to seek the seat is the high quality of the makeup of the current committee. For me, it's like being drafted as a rookie to a Super Bowl championship team."
Nuttall replaces Stites, who was absent from all public meetings after news broke that the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office charged him with fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits from November 2008 through November 2009.
He was charged with one count of theft by deception in excess of $500, a third-degree offense, and one count of making an "unsworn falsification" after he allegedly negotiated an unemployment check, claiming that he met all the eligibility requirements for receiving unemployment benefits, authorities said.
"It's a very unfortunate situation. Because from what I know about Scott Stites, he always did a good job for the township," Nuttall said of having to fill Stites' seat under such circumstances. "But I am grateful and humbled in the confidence that the committee has shown in me... (and) I'm going to work hard to make the services the residents here enjoy are efficient and provided at a lower cost."
But Nuttall's appointment was overshadowed by the anger that parents and school faculty showed toward the governing body.
Kasyan said the Board of Education wanted to discuss in detail with the Township Committee the impact of the additional $300,000 budget cuts. The district already was planning to eliminate 51 staff positions under the defeated budget, which was 5 percent less than last year's budget.
"This $300,000 will mean the loss of more people," he said, adding the district already was operating below adequacy. "Then it becomes a safety and security issue."
And Kasyan said the district also was concerned that its budget was cut by 75 percent of the allowable amount, while the committee agreed to cut the Pinelands Regional School District's budget by less than 30 percent.
But Township Committee still opted to vote to make the recommendations, saying the wishes of the voting public came across "loud and clear."
"This process really stinks, and it's totally unfair for this governing body," Mayor Ray Gormley said. "But this is the way our system is set up."
The school district can still appeal the Township Committee's recommendations. But if the budget is sent to Trenton to be reviewed, Kasyan said, the budget could be cut by as much as $403,000.
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