TOMS RIVER-The Toms River Regional School District could be facing a $3.3 million budget shortfall next year due to a school funding proposal working its way through Trenton, sponsored by North Jersey’s Democrat powerbase.
That base, was the force that also funded the Toms River clean slate team, including school board member Ben Giovine, an avid Democrat. Those ties to the New Jersey political machine so far haven’t been able to pull any strings in Trenton, so board members are now blaming the public for not attending meetings and press conferences held by the board.
According to school board members Ben Giovine (D) and Dan Leonard (R), the public is at fault.
Last Thursday, at 1pm in the afternoon the school district held a press conference outside of Toms River South and after few from the public attended, board member Dan Leonard lashed out at his constituents according to an article in the Asbury Park Press.
Leonard, the representative of the tiny borough of Beachwood called Toms River residents apathetic.
“The one thing that I’m seeing and you see here tonight, you saw it at the community meetings, you saw it at the press conference; is an apathetic public,” Leonard said, criticizing working families for not attending the 1pm weekday conference and evening school board meetings. Leonard himself is a public worker, employed by Ocean County.
Leonard is still reeling from a political defeat in the spring after the board rejected one of his election campaign donors to lucrative auditing contract in which he lobbied to hire the firm Holman and Frenia to the board.
After learning of Leonard’s political donations from the firm through a political action committee, the board opted to hire a more expensive alternate bidder, avoiding possible future ethics and campaign conflicts of interest with Leonard’s campaign donor. His fellow board members blocked what many felt was a return to Michael Ritacco era style partisan politics on the board in a 6-3 vote.
On the school funding cut, Board President Ben Giovine also sharply criticized residents of the district, saying not enough people show for board meetings.
“Toms River is in the headlines just about every day about this money we’re losing and I really can’t count the new faces that are out there,” he told the Asbury Park Press.
After the district announced its intention to bus hundreds of residents to Trenton to protest, concerned taxpayers questioned the cost of fuel for the buses. Giovine said he was shocked at the reaction in the community.
“Do we really have to write that out in a stinkin’ press release, to let people know that our protest is saving $3.3 million?” he was quoted in the story.
Giovine also lambasted voters who questioned a recent $26 million performing arts high school proposal by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
“How many superintendents and administrators do we have on the payroll?” asked Ellie Capponda.
“I thought the Hooper ave Sports Bubble and the Ritacco Center were going to solve all the money problems,” joked Bob Johnson.
Giovine and Leonard may be right, the public in New Jersey is apathetic, after years of being ignored on many levels of local and state government.
“The reason the public is apathetic is they know voting changes nothing, never has never will. NJ has the lowest voter turnout in the country for a reason,and yet we turn to the people that have caused the problems to solve the problem,” said resident Denis Bouchard.