February 8, 2011 • Vol. XXXIV • No. 24
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Superintendent Salary Caps Take Effect

New salary caps for school superintendents in New Jersey took effect Monday, ultimately affecting approximately 70 percent of local district superintendents in the state.

The salary caps were implemented through commissioner regulations as an amendment to the state’s Accountability Regulations, without the need for approval by the State Board of Education.

Under the regulations, salary caps range from $125,000 for districts with fewer than 250 students, increasing incrementally to $175,000 for districts with 6,501 to 10,000 students.

Majority Affected The proposal will affect salaries of more than 360 school superintendents, although the changes will occur after the superintendents’ current contracts expire.  About 70 percent of New Jersey’s local school superintendents currently earn more than the proposed salary caps, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The salary caps are as follows:

Student Enrollment of District(s) Maximum
  0-250 $125,000
  251 – 750 $135,000
  751 – 1,500 $145,000
  1,501 – 3,000 $155,000
  3,001 – 6,500 $165,000
  6,501 – 10,000 $175,000

In addition, the education commissioner can approve individual waivers of the maximum salary for districts with more than 10,000 students. Superintendents may earn $10,000 more for each additional district they supervise, and they could receive an additional stipend of $2,500 if their district includes a high school.

School boards could not increase a superintendent's base pay – for example, with longevity increases – beyond the predetermined salary caps. No superintendent contract with a compensation package above the salary caps could be extended. When the contract expires, the new compensation package needs to conform to the state’s policies. 

In response to public questioning about the need for salary caps, the Department of Education said in the New Jersey Register that it “believes that the profession of superintendent will thrive and continue to attract high quality candidates in and to New Jersey,” adding that the salaries “will be sufficient to attract talented candidates.”

The New Jersey Association of School Administrators and two Morris County superintendents filed suit in Superior Court in January seeking to overturn the Department of Education’s salary caps.

NJSBA Concerns NJSBA supports certain aspects of the plan, including the concept of merit-based bonuses tied to educational goals and incentives for small school districts to share administrative services voluntarily. However, the Association notes that recent laws and regulations, such as the 2-percent property tax levy cap and the Accountability Regulations, render the salary caps unnecessary.

NJSBA has also stressed that the role of the board of education is not to advocate for administrators’ salaries, but to ensure quality school leadership.

NJSBA has stated that the salary limits could put some New Jersey school districts at a disadvantage when hiring superintendents and other administrators — especially districts in areas with a high cost of living and which border other states.

In addition, NJSBA noted that the salary caps should provide for instances where the superintendent positions have incorporated additional administrative responsibilities, such as principal.

In its responses in the New Jersey Register, the Department of Education disagreed, saying “if one candidate could complete the various job functions attendant to sharing under the current salary guidelines, then the functions of each job were not sufficient to justify a separate full-time position.”

U.S. Department of Education statistics show that, in New Jersey, administrative spending as a percentage of total expenditures is lower than that of 42 other states. The department’s National Center for Education Statistics indicates that New Jersey directs 9.5 percent of public school expenditures toward central-office and school-level administration, as compared to a nationwide average of 10.8 percent.

 

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