Superintendent Salary Caps: The Legal Limit

Governor Christie's salary caps are about to go into effect, despite pending lawsuits and public hearings

First proposed last July, Gov. Chris Christie’s caps on superintendent salaries have stirred intense debate and a couple of pending lawsuits. And that was before they even became effective under the law.

That changes on Monday, when they will become approved regulations.

“They will move forward as proposed,” said Alan Guenther, spokesman for the state Department of Education (DOE). “They will take effect February 7.”

The final “notice of adoption” in the state Register is no surprise, even after three public hearings where a host of complaints and concerns were aired about the controversial measure.

Said to be the toughest superintendent pay limits in the country, the caps will hold new contracts to sliding ceilings, depending on district enrollment and other factors.

For instance, those in small districts of 250 students or less would be capped at $125,000; districts up to 10,000 students would be limited to $175,000. For 70 percent of existing superintendents, it will represent a pay cut once their contracts are up for renewal.

But what has stirred much of the debate was that Christie administration effectively started enforcing the caps already, trying to stop superintendents and school boards from extending contracts before Monday’s effective date.

That has led to face-offs with the districts in Parsippany-Troy Hills, Chatham, Hoboken and Long Hill, to name a few — at least three of them now pending lawsuits in different state courts.

Still, to make any changes to the regulations at this point certainly would have opened the Christie administration to further legal challenge. And if substantive, they also would have likely required the public review process to start anew.

In the meantime, Guenther said the comments and concerns raised during the hearings will be posted with the adoption notice on Monday, each with administration responses.