Court sides with state on superintendents’ salary cap case

TRENTON – The state appeals court has upheld the state Education Commissioner’s ability to set caps on school superintendents’ salaries.

The decision emanated from three lawsuits filed in Morris and Passaic counties arguing the salary cap authority exceeds Commissioner Christopher Cerf’s authority and that the separation of powers clause of the Constitution was violated.

The court rejected those arguments involving school districts in Passaic City, the Chathams, and Long Hill Township.

Gov. Chris Christie had sought to put a lid on escalating salaries of superintendents, an area he said has gotten out of control.

At issue is the Commissioner’s implementation of amended regulations capping superintendents’ salaries based on enrollment, the court stated.

On Nov. 1, 2010, the Commissioner proposed amendments setting a “maximum salary amount” and defining the term with a schedule of salary caps based on enrollment, the court stated.

When the Commissioner proposed the amendments, each of the superintendents in question was serving under a contract that was to expire on June 30, 2011, according to the court.

In each instance, the base salary for the term commencing July 1, 2011 in the proposed contract was higher than the per pupil cap for that school district as stated in the Commissioner’s proposed amendment to the regulations, the court found.

According to the court’s synopsis of events, the negotiated base salary for Passaic Superintendent Robert Holster was $218,762.73, and the proposed cap for his district was $177,500.

For Rene Rovtar, in Long Hill, the negotiated base salary was $155,000, which is $10,000 more than the proposed cap for her district.

For James O’Neill, in the Chathams, the negotiated salary was $217,213, but his district’s cap was $165,000, the court stated.

Court sides with state on superintendents’ salary cap case