LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The township’s decision to cut an additional $300,000 from the school district’s defeated budget has resulted in a slew of additional cuts and the elimination of two more jobs — bringing the total job losses to 53.
When voters rejected the $28 million budget last month, township officials met with school officials to try to come up with a way to appease both the district and voters.
The verdict was $300,000 in additional cuts, or about 75 percent of the allowable amount. However, when the township — along with the four other municipalities that send students to Pinelands Regional High School — agreed to cut the regional district’s budget by less than 30 percent of the allowable amount, Superintendent Frank Kasyan publicly pleaded with Township Committee to postpone voting for the $300,000. He said it would afford the Board of Education the opportunity to discuss the effects of the cut.
Township Committee voted for the cuts anyway, claiming the opinion of the voting public was heard “loud and clear.”
That forced the school district to eliminate two more positions — a custodian and technical specialist — as well as making reductions in guidance services and media center salaries, in part by reducing those jobs from 12-month to 10-month positions. The district already planned to eliminate jobs, 10 of which were through attrition.
In addition to the multitude of additional cuts the district had to make, members of the district’s administration gave up some of their scheduled salary increases and members of the superintendent’s administrative team volunteered to take wage freezes and pay 1.5 percent toward their health benefits.
“Between the cuts that we got hit with from the state and these additional cuts, we’ve had to make up more than $4 million in our budget. And doing that really has us functioning with the bare minimum right now,” Kasyan said. “If we have to make more cuts next year, I’ll have to do so with a scalpel. Because there’s not a lot of room left to operate.”
One result of these layoffs will be an increase in class sizes, Kasyan said.
“Five years ago, our class sizes were around 15 children per class,” he said. “Next year we will have some grades with 27 or 29 children in a class.”
The thought of increased class sizes and a reduction in services has many parents angry, but Kasyan said the remaining district employees will continue to work hard to prevent the quality of education from suffering.
“Does the district have less resources? Yes. Do we have less personnel? Yes. And you’re asking good people to work even harder. But the quality employees that we have are going to work harder. And we’ll be OK this year,” he said, warning that the district cannot undergo many more cuts before the quality of education suffers. “There comes a saturation point, when they’re already doing everything they can with what they are given, and they can’t make magic come from less.”
Contact Robert Spahr: