New salary guidelines for superintendents proposed

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New Jersey’s acting commissioner of education has filed with the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law (OAL) proposed amendments to state education regulations that provide more flexibility for school districts under the superintendent salary cap while continuing to ensure fiscal stability, according to a press release from the state Department of Education.

The proposed salary amendments and technical amendments are expected to be published in the New Jersey Register on Dec. 19, starting a 60-day public comment period that would conclude on Feb 17, according to the press release.

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In addition to submitting written comments, the Department of Education will host three meetings in January for public testimony. After reviewing the input, the acting commissioner of education will file the final regulations for adoption with the OAL. The final regulations would be effective once they are published in the New Jersey Register as early as spring 2017, according to the press release.

In 2010, Gov. Chris Christie announced the creation of new state education regulations to ensure fiscal discipline and promote the prudent use of property tax dollars by capping salaries for school district superintendents, according to the press release.

The regulations took effect on Feb. 7, 2011 and were set to expire on Nov. 25, 2016.

“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,” Acting Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington said.

The proposed amendments include:

• Fewer enrollment categories along with increases to the maximum annual salary. The new regulations would collapse the current six enrollment categories into three. In addition, there are increases to the maximum annual salary that all superintendents could receive in the new enrollment categories. This provides districts with more flexibility within the enrollment categories and minimizes the impact on salaries based on district size, according to the press release.

The proposed enrollment categories and maximum annual superintendent’s salary are as follows: 749 students or less, $147,794; 750 to 2,999 students, $169,689; 3,000 students or more, $191,584.

School districts with an enrollment of more than 10,000 students will continue to have the option of applying to the commissioner of education for a waiver of the maximum salary. However, districts will be limited to only one waiver request during the term of a contract and requests for a renegotiated waiver during the term of the current contract would be prohibited, according to the press release.

In addition to the maximum annual salary for superintendents, there is an overall administrative cost limit on the total per pupil administrative costs that may be budgeted for the district. Administrative costs for a school district are defined as costs for general administration, school administration, central services and administrative information technology. A district may not submit a budget in which the budgeted per pupil administrative costs exceed the statutory limit, according to the press release.

• Financial incentives for superintendents to stay in their school districts. A superintendent reappointed for a subsequent term with the same district may receive an annual salary that exceeds the maximum salary amount by up to 2 percent in the first year of the renewal contract, followed by annual increases of 2 percent in each of the remaining years of the renewal contract. The annual increases would continue in any subsequent contract as well.

• An opportunity to receive a stipend for superintendents who hold one additional administrative position. The local district board of education would be able to submit to the Department of Education Executive County Superintendent (ECS) written justification for having a superintendent serve in one additional administrative role. Upon approval by the ECS that the one additional administrative role is cost efficient and operationally feasible for the district, a superintendent may receive a $5,000 annual stipend for that one additional administrative role.

• Increases to the existing salary increments for superintendents in certain circumstances. The amount for the “additional district salary increment” for each additional district served by the same superintendent would increase from $10,000 to $15,000, and the amount for the “high school salary increment” for a district served by the same superintendent that includes a high school would increase from $2,500 to $5,000.

The New Jersey School Boards Association, which represents the state’s boards of education, issued a press release after the Department of Education released its revised superintendent salary cap proposal on the afternoon of Nov. 16.

“While we appreciate movement on this issue, we are disappointed the salary cap concept would remain in effect,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, executive director. “NJSBA maintains that the superintendent salary cap is an unnecessary cap within a cap. The compensation package for the district’s chief education officer should be the purview of the local school board, which is responsible for the local governance of public education.”

According to the NJSBA, the current superintendent salary cap is as follows: districts of 250 or fewer pupils, maximum salary, $125,000; 251 to 750 pupils, maximum salary, $135,000; 751 to 1,500 pupils, maximum salary of $145,000; 1,501 to 3,000 pupils, maximum salary of $155,000; 3,001 to 6,500 pupils, maximum salary of $165,000; 6,501 and more pupils, maximum salary of $175,000; districts with more than 10,000 pupils, the commissioner of education may grant a waiver to the maximum salary amount.

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