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Salary Caps--Ridgewood Letter to Commissioner 1-17

January 3, 2017

 

 

 

Kimberley Harrington, Acting Commissioner New Jersey Department of Education

100 River View Plaza

P.O. Box 500 Trenton, NJ   08625

 

Dear Commissioner Harrington:

 

The Ridgewood Board of Education voiced opposition to the superintendent salary caps when first proposed by Governor Christie in 2010. For the last six years, we have continued to object to the salary caps noting the flawed premise that the savings from the superintendent's lower salary would provide significant tax relief to property owners.

 

From the onset, we noted concerns about the degenerative long-term impact on school district leadership, causing higher than average turnover in the superintendent positions. We spoke of our concern that superintendent salaries were lagging behind the salaries of assistant superintendents, business administrators, and principals and that incentives to take on the added responsibility of running a school district would be seen as unattractive to qualified administrators.

 

We declared that the regulations were unfair in eliminating year-to-year salary adjustments. We urged the legislators to restore the Board's ability to negotiate a reasonable salary commensurate with the experience and skill set of the superintendent candidate, knowing that the state had already imposed an administrative growth limitation within a budget that is restricted to a 2 percent increase on the property tax.

 

The fact that superintendents were singled out and the only group of public employees subject to a salary cap made these regulations even more outrageous and unfair.

 

We observed on multiple occasions and again recently, Governor Christie's efforts to provide his staff and other public employees' salary increases. In an interview on December 22,  2016 Governor Christie supported salary increases for NJ judges. We agree and we also believe that our school superintendents should be fairly compensated and eligible for annual cost of living adjustments.

 

We urge that the superintendent salary cap regulations be eliminated for the following reasons:

 

  • An unnecessar y. redundant cap : The cap on superintendent salaries is unnecessary due to the existence of the 2 percent property tax levy cap on the operating budget and the administrative spending growth cap. If boards are able to create budgets within these existing caps while providing a thorough and efficient education, what they pay the superintendent should be a local decision.

 

  • Safe guards already exist to protect against excessive contracts: Through regulation and statute the Executive County Superintendent reviews all superintendent employment contracts, providing sufficient controls and safe guards on superintendent compensation.

 

  • The cap has had a negative impact on the quality. stability and continuity of educational leadership : The superintendent salary cap has caused high turnover rates as superintendents left New Jersey to pursue opportunities in neighboring Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York; states that do not cap superintendent salaries. It has also increased the use of interim superintendents, and caused a decline in the experience level of candidates for superintendent positions.

 

  • Interims superintendents cost the State more money : The use of interim superintendents, as a result of the cap, has been a net negative for State finances as they not only earn a salary from the district but also draw on the already overburdened State pension system.

 

  • The cap subverts local control: The vast majority of school boards in New Jersey are democratically-elected. Board of Education members are entrusted by the taxpayers to spend tax dollars judiciously. If they fail to do so, the voters are empowered to replace them through the electoral process.

 

  • Interferes with the Board of Education's ability to hire and retain quality leadership: The salary caps limit a board's ability to attract and retain quality leadership. Setting a salary based on the number of students in the district without consideration of negotiating a cost of living adjustment during a 3 or 5 year contract severely impacts on a Board's ability to retain an efficient and effective school leader.

 

  • The caps are a disincentive for advancement: It has become apparent that district principals and assistant superintendents are reluctant to take on the role of superintendent when salaries are capped and their current salaries are sometimes higher than the superintendent's salary.

 

  • Consider the multi-fa ceted role o( the superintendent: He or she is an educational leader, district spokesperson, community leader, CEO of a multi-million dollar enterprise, personnel manager, interpreter and implementer of State regulations, parental coach, and advocate. The superintendent should be appropriately compensated for the job responsibilities inherit in running a high performing district.

 

Thank you for considering our request to eliminate the superintendent salary caps. The suggested new regulations on the superintendent salary caps do not further either the education of our students or the efficient and effective operation of New Jersey's school districts. After six years, the salary caps have only resulted in a negative situation that harms New Jersey's school districts.

 

Sincerely,

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828