New Jersey school superintendents will be allowed to earn higher salaries nearing $200,000, plus annual 2 percent raises, under revisions to the state salary cap filed Wednesday by acting Commissioner of Education Kimberly Harrington.
“Based on feedback from school communities, we are offering greater flexibility for school districts to attract and keep quality superintendents, while still promoting fiscal efficiency,” Harrington said in a statement.
Representatives of both school administrators and school boards said while they appreciate the revisions, they still do not believe any caps are necessary since the state already has a cap on the property-tax levy.
“While we appreciate movement on this issue, we are disappointed that the salary cap concept would remain in effect,” New Jersey School Boards Association Executive Director Lawrence S. Feinsod said in a statement. “NJSBA maintains that the superintendent salary cap is an unnecessary cap within a cap.”
Gov. Chris Christie announced the caps in 2010, and they took effect in 2011. They were set to expire Nov. 25.
A major revision reduces the number of salary categories from six to three and increases the maximum salary from a high of $175,000 in large districts to $191,584.
The three new categories would set a maximum of $147,794 in districts with 749 students or less and $169,689 for districts with 750 to 2,999 students. Districts with more than 3,000 students would have the new maximum of $191,584. Districts with more than 10,000 students can request a waiver from the maximum.
A small district of just 250 students, which now has a salary cap of $125,000, would see it rise to $147,794. A midsize district of 800 students would have the salary cap rise from $145,000 to almost $170,000.
In an effort to retain superintendents, the new regulations would also allow superintendents at the maximum salary who accept new contracts to earn raises of 2 percent each year of the new agreement.
The stipend for superintendents in districts with high schools will increase from $2,500 to $5,000. The stipend for superintendents who supervise more than one district would increase to $15,000.
Superintendents who also hold another administrative position in their district can get an extra $5,000. That would only affect very small districts where the superintendent may also be a principal.
A provision that allows up to five annual merit bonuses totaling 15 percent of salary would remain in effect.
Districts would still have to abide by state law limiting the maximum per student cost on total administrative spending.
Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, called the revisions a step in the right direction to attract and retain top administrators.
“School district leaders have retired early or left the Garden State to work in neighboring states,” he said in a statement. The current policy created a powerful disincentive for aspiring superintendents to seek a position in New Jersey and resulted in talented leaders opting to remain in other administrative positions rather than losing compensation.”
He also said school superintendent contracts and salaries should remain a local issue.
The state will hold three public hearings and take public comment on the revisions. The final regulations could take effect in spring 2017.
Most superintendent contracts include a clause that says salaries can be renegotiated if the salary caps change.