College presidents’ perks at issue before Budget panel

TRENTON – A Budget Committee member expressed his displeasure Thursday regarding college presidents’ compensation packages.

Assemblyman Chris Brown, (R-8), of Medford, said he found it “disconcerting” that none of the recommendations outlined in Comptroller Matthew Boxer’s May 2012 report regarding perks in some county college presidents’ compensation packages has been addressed.

“Some of these packages are just outright outrageous,” Brown said about the presidents’ packages. “Some professors are not getting raises…Has anything been done since the issuance of that report to implement any of those recommendations?”

Montclair University President Susan Cole, president of the New Jersey Presidents Council, said it hadn’t taken up that issue, adding that the council “does not engage in that issue.”

Cole said those packages are determined and negotiated by the individual boards of trustees and their respective chief executives.

“That’s disconcerting to me, and to a lot of my constituents,” Brown said. “I’m just confused why this particular issue has not been discussed.”

But Cole reiterated that that “is a subject over which the law gives authority to individual institutions.”

But Brown said “this issue should be brought up…. A lot of it (taxpayer dollars) is gobbled up by administrative costs.”

He added all schools should find ways to incorporate efficiencies within their operating budgets, instead of just reflexively blaming “the failures of the state.”

Cole said the biggest efficiencies public and community colleges have put into place is taking in more students year after year while the level of state funding has remained relatively stagnant.

The exchange occurred during the Assembly Budget Committee’s hearing into higher education needs for fiscal year 2014.

In the report, Boxer found that in addition to Brookdale, three other community colleges had paid more than $20,000 to cover such diverse costs as country club memberships and airfare for spouses.

“There are no state standards or guidelines for college trustees to rely on when setting compensation terms for their presidents,” Boxer said in a statement released at the time.

Among other things, the Comptroller recommended these solutions at the time:

*The state Secretary of Higher Education should set out guidelines that foster uniformity.

*Presidents should submit itemized receipts for reimbursement.

*Each college should post on its website its president’s employment contract and annual expense information.

  College presidents’ perks at issue before Budget panel