On July 19, Governor Murphy signed legislation, S-692/A-3775 (P.L.2019, c.169), that effectively eliminates the superintendent salary cap. The New Jersey School Boards Association applauds the Legislature and Governor Murphy for advancing and enacting this measure.
The cap has been “an unnecessary restriction that can have a negative impact on the quality, stability and continuity of public education,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director.
NJSBA took an active role in supporting the legislation, which explicitly prohibits the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) from regulating the maximum salary a school district may pay its superintendent of schools. Established through regulation by the commissioner of education, the superintendent salary cap originally went into effect in February 2011.
With the removal of the restriction, school districts still have to comply with the following spending constraints under statute and code:
- The 2% cap on increases in the school tax levy;
- The administrative spending growth limit, and
- State Department of Education review of superintendent employment contracts (N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-3.1), based on criteria designed to limit excessive compensation packages.
“Collectively, these constraints require boards of education to be prudent in determining where to allocate their limited resources,” said Feinsod.
“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.
While repealing the cap on superintendent salaries, the new law also codifies existing standards and controls on superintendent contracts already included in the NJDOE’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, a prohibition on the reimbursement of any employee contributions toward health benefit costs, and limits on travel expenses and unused sick leave and vacation payouts.
The measure also sets in statute regulatory provisions concerning merit bonuses. These provisions allow superintendents to earn up to 15 percent of their base salary upon the achievement of agreed upon quantitative or qualitative goals. Approval or disapproval of any merit bonuses will remain under the purview of executive county superintendents.
While the legislation did not include specific language regarding various salary increments superintendents can earn (e.g., additional school district salary increment, high school salary increment, additional administrative position salary increment), these allowances remain intact under existing regulation.
The impact of the salary cap had 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.
Noting that a number of school districts are engaged in recruitment of new superintendents, Feinsod explained that elimination of the salary cap “will enhance their ability to select the best candidates possible and advance the stability and continued quality of public education in New Jersey.”
“NJSBA appreciates the leadership of the bill’s primary sponsors Senators M. Teresa Ruiz and Paul Sarlo and Assembly members Mila Jasey, Ralph Caputo and Jamel Holley on this critical initiative,” said Feinsod. “The Association also thanks Governor Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin for recognizing the need to eliminate this flawed policy.”