If you were expecting Gov. Chris Christie to change his stance on superintendent pay caps, you might not want to hold your breath.
Responding to the Ridgewood school board's efforts to have the caps lifted or at least to allow for a higher salary, Christie at a press conference Monday offered a simple "sorry."
“Everyone is being asked to make some sacrifice here,” said the governor, who passed the law in 2010 without action of the legislature. “I think a lot of people in New Jersey think $165,000 is a perfectly acceptable salary to be superintendent.”
The NJ Department of Education estimates annual savings from the superintendent caps – which limits salaries from between $125,000 and $175,000 – at about $10 million.
Detractors argue, however, that talent fleeing the state costs far more.
Ridgewood might be facing that crossroads in five months, when Superintendent Dan Fishbein's contract expires. Ridgewood is Bergen County's largest school district with nearly 6,000 students, hundreds of staff members and a $90 million budget.
Should he stick around, the popular schools chief would face a cut of more than $50,000 to $167,500, plus annual merit-based bonuses determined by the county superintendent.
Village school board officials say the caps are based on school enrollment, not experience or skill.
If Fishbein spurns the district and flee the states, Ridgewood school board members say their negotiating position will be hindered by the caps. Finding the best candidate won't be easy, board members say.
Neighboring Glen Rock offers a glimpse at the challenges of losing an experienced administrator and facing new realities on compensation.
Before the caps came into play, the district was paying ex-Superintendent David Verducci a salary comparable to that of Fishbein. Nearly a year after Verducci's sudden retirement announcement, board members are still looking for a leader, with $60,000+ less cash to woo with.
Though he remains unswayed by Ridgewood's request, Christie recognizes the challenges that come with the title.
“Superintendent is a tough job, especially in a town like Ridgewood,” Christie said at the press conference, according to northjersey.com. But the governor's job is "pretty tough too" and he's not looking for a raise, Christie said, noting that Fishbein's compensation well outpaces his own $175,000 annual pay day.
“I think they can work at $165,000. I don’t think that should be a problem.”
In a few month's time, Ridgewood will know for sure.