A measure that would eliminate the cap on superintendent salaries received final legislative approval on June 28. The New Jersey School Boards Association strongly supports the bill and urges Gov. Phil Murphy to sign it into law.
“The regulations represent an unnecessary ‘cap within a cap,’” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director in a statement released Thursday. “School district administrative expenditures are already controlled by an administrative spending growth limit, the 2% tax levy cap, and Department of Education review of administrator contracts.
“Local boards of education need the discretion over superintendent compensation to ensure that they are able to attract and retain the chief school administrators who are best suited to lead their education programs,” he said.
“NJSBA has taken an active role in supporting the legislation,” said Feinsod. “We thank the sponsors and the Senate and Assembly leadership for their efforts on this important measure.”
The NJSBA applauds the bill’s lead sponsors, senators Teresa Ruiz and Paul Sarlo, and Assembly members Mila Jasey, Ralph Caputo and Jamel Holley for their leadership on this critical initiative. The Association also thanks Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin for recognizing the need to eliminate this flawed policy and posting the bills for a vote.
The legislation, S-692/A-3775, explicitly prohibits the N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) from regulating the maximum salary amount a school district may pay its superintendent of schools. Established through regulation by the Commissioner of Education, the superintendent salary caps originally went into effect in February 2011. They were later renewed, with some modifications, in the spring of 2017 and are now set to expire in 2024.
The bill also codifies existing standards and controls on superintendent contracts that are already included in the department’s fiscal accountability regulations. These provisions include the requirement that executive county superintendents review all superintendent contracts to ensure comparability with the compensation of similarly situated administrators, as well as limits on travel expenses and unused sick leave and vacation payouts.
NJSBA has long held that the cap was unnecessary, because school districts have to comply with statutory and regulatory spending constraints, including the 2% cap on increases in the school tax levy; the administrative spending growth limit; and the NJDOE review of superintendent employment contracts, which is designed to limit excessive compensation packages. Collectively these constraints require boards of education to be prudent in determining where to allocate their limited resources.
The impact of the unnecessary superintendent salary cap has been felt across the state with respect to turnover, a decline in the experience level of candidates, and a proliferation in the hiring of interim superintendents who can only serve a maximum of two years in any school district. NJSBA believes that the enactment of S-692/A-3775 will advance the stability and continued quality of public education in New Jersey and would not increase government spending or infringe on the interests of taxpayers.
The Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 50-19-5. The bill then returned to the Senate, which passed a previous version of the bill in early 2018, to concur with amendments made in the Assembly. The upper house voted 27-8 in favor of the bill and sent it to the governor. Gov. Murphy now has 45 days to sign the bill as is or use his veto pen and return it to the Legislature, with or without recommended changes. However, if the Senate is not in session when the 45-day timeframe expires, he can wait to act on the bill until they reconvene. If signed into law, it will go into effect immediately.