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Christie: Fishbein Shouldn't Make More Than Me

The governor has no plans to acquiesce the Ridgewood BOE's request to skirt a salary cap that would lighten its superintendent's wallet considerably.

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.

David Merlis January 15, 2013 at 01:56 PM
Why, then does CC make more than governors in states larger than NJ? The sad reality is, most Republicans believe in limited, small government. That decisions should be made by local officials, not state or federals bureaucrats. Thats why the national GOP will never give him the nomination for Pres.
Boyd A. Loving January 15, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Hooray for Chris Christie.
Fred Grygiel January 15, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Hooray for Chris Christie for Sandy Mr. Loving. But there are times when even the most beloved decision maker should be asked a tough question or two when an action defies explanation in terms of labor contracts. What happened to the consideration of : Experience, Education, Performance, Professional Recognition, student performance and School District rankings by independent reviewers? None of that matters? Now that's hard to imagine...don't you think? Happy New Year Mr. Loving.
jp1 January 15, 2013 at 05:28 PM
Boo for Boyd.
Rene January 15, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Difficult situation. How about the pay be based on how the kids do AFTER they graduate and what the college or employment rate on the students is who are supposed to be prepared for POST high School. what is the percentage of kids who go to the next level and graduate college or get jobs because the districts did a good job. Why should we pay a super the same amount when his or her district is doing a good job, and pay the same max amount to a super whose district is not performing. Nothing more than tenure as I see it. A good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold, and should not get paid the same as a teacher who does NOTHING, and we all know they are out there, just like in any profession. Same for Supers. Difference is if you don't perform in the public sector, you are gone.
Rene January 15, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Sorry, Meant to say Private sector. If you don't perform in the Private sector, you are looking for another job in most cased.
Big Brother January 15, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Easy way around it is if you do find a qualified candidate that you are willing to pay "over the cap" $$ to, just do it, and Christie will reduce state aid by that incremental amount. Not a big deal actually. Christie has already stated that type of arrangement with towns that want to go over the 2% property tax cap.
Brian January 15, 2013 at 06:48 PM
I am sure that the Superintendent would be happy to take $165k a year along with a helicopter to take him to his son's baseball games, car service where/when he needs it, a mansion with staff and an entertainment budget. Oh not to mention free tickets to concerts and games and the ability to raise millions of dollars in "campaign" funds. The rule would be less offensive if City Managers, police chiefs and fire chiefs were also included in the pay ceiling.
Fred Grygiel January 15, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Please Rene but I must tell you that the "Private" sector has a lot of dead bodies in positions of power, influence and earning tons of money a lot more than School superintendents while not performing. Have you forgotten the Crash of 2008? The mortgage scandals in the biggest banks of the world? The near destruction of the world's economy? Libor scandals? Insider trading? Yes it does make sense to hold school teachers and administrators responsible. But to say that the private sector is without fault in these areas is just not supported by numerous recent financial collapses in the market. And not only did they not get fired they were actually rewarded and still keep their jobs after the "public" saved/bailed them out. You can have faith in the market system but not BLIND faith...Happy New Year.
Fred Grygiel January 15, 2013 at 07:05 PM
somewhat missing the point: what does CC's salary have anything to do with capping superintendent's salaries? It is an arbitrary number just pulled out of the air for a publicity stunt and lo en behold it stuck! How can that be considered good government? The whim of the Governor is dispositive of the issue? Please Big Brother hold him to a higher standard...we all deserve it.
Mike Kender January 15, 2013 at 07:28 PM
Using Governor Christie's salary as a ceiling is flawed for a few reasons: 1. He has huge non-salary perks (mansion, helicopter, etc) that a superintendent doesn't have. If you add these to his salary, they would significantly increase it. 2. A top political official such as a governor is willing to take a below-market salary for a few years because the office will give them the ability to make millions of future dollars in book deals, speaking fees, and future positions such as law firm partners or corporate board members. A superintendent in a school district such as RIdgewood does not have these lucrative exit opportunities. I also don't understand why this cap only applies to school superintendents and not to all other public sector employees in the state, like the Rutgers deans, athletic director and football coach. I appreciate Governor Christie's desire to cut costs, but if he's serious about it, why not apply a cap to all public sector employees in the state.
Fred Grygiel January 15, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Bravo Eastside Dad! Spot on commentary based on analysis and experience. but (small but) the notion of a cap on all public sector employees would require IMHO a Declaration of a State Financial Crisis by both the Governor and the Legislature not just again a whim of the Guv. If there is a crisis build the case and then act on it. What is the evidence? What are the options? Policy analysis requires an open process for carrying the burden of proof in moving the recommendation forward. Last time I looked the governor was elected not crowned and therefore is subject to questioning by citizens without their risking incarceration.
Right of Center January 15, 2013 at 08:03 PM
As a Republican, I am shocked that Christie has no concept of supply/demand and how they intersect to create a price (in this case, price being salary) If the supply/demand in the FREE MARKET determine that a School Super should receive X dollars, then why would a Republican governor choose to insert price controls? Is CC advocating for more governmental control over the economy? Can someone with access ask him?
Right of Center January 15, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Also, if you do not like this policy (and as a dad with 2 kids at BF, I do not) then you are all encouraged to vote against CC in the November election. For the first time in my life, I will vote Dem.
Paul January 15, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Thank you, Governor Christie, Why not Look into all the BOE spending for the last 10 years in the Bergen County town of Ridgewood N.J. How about a task force?? Why not a Task Force? Hey Governor One Man to another. Why can't we have a CAP on all of the spending in this Village?
Rene January 15, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Fred I am not talking about those idiots. Talking abbot the average sales guy or office mgr who doesn't have those options. I agree with you on the big guys who hurt people and don't care
Rock January 15, 2013 at 08:50 PM
I think the real issue is that this arbitrary cap -- and it is arbitrary (the comparison to a superintendant and the governor is a bit silly) -- is the fact that it was implemented without consideration of the immediate context of other education roles within the districts. Ridgewood's HS principal makes $176,000 while the cap for the superintendant (presumably the boss) is $165,000. So, in that scenario, the superintendant should aspire to be a principal. Or, aspire to be the principal of North Bergen, who makes $228,000 a year. The additional issue of course, is that the pool of (I would think the best candidates) for superintendant -- internal district principals, would face a severe paycut for taking on more responsibility. I agree with Christie on most, almost all things. except this.
Paul January 15, 2013 at 09:12 PM
So Governor, Why don't we find out what is going on? You sir have already done so much to help the Jersey shore ect. Ya Ya we got off easy in Ridgewood so my question to you is Why are the Property Taxes going so high in this village . When they really don't Warrent it ?
milly January 15, 2013 at 10:24 PM
Why do we need a county superintendent?
Fred Grygiel January 15, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Thanks all for a very informing and civilized discussion of a very controversial issue without any angry outbursts or personal attacks. Let us all hope that the lessons learned here that unsupported & arbitrary & capricious decisions hurt us all regardless of the personality of the decision makers. We deserve respect and that should include full disclosure of the relevant facts as most lawyers understand. Whims are for nursery rhymes...Happy New Year!
maureen January 15, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Kudos Chris Christie
Paul January 15, 2013 at 11:09 PM
O.k. Fred, Maybe you can sit down next to Gov. Christie and ask him to look into the major Property Taxes in Ridgewood N.J. Thanks and have a great New Year!
MER January 15, 2013 at 11:45 PM
I think even "$167,500, plus annual merit-based bonuses" is TOO MUCH. And people wonder why their property taxes are so high...
John Hahn January 16, 2013 at 03:26 AM
Property taxes are high because 40% of the people pay attention. Schools/education are 70% of the budget in GR. 24% goes to the borough. the rest goes to the county. 2 years ago 40% came out to elect the current mayor. He got 22% his opponent got 18%. 60% of the voters said I DO NOT CARE. School board elections are even worse. But it is their we spend 70% of our tax $. We want the good schools. We want the services. But we don't want to pay attention long enough to say NO we want it more economically. The elected officials know this. Example: here in GR the borough council gives themselves taxpayer funded health insurance. It costs the taxpayers about $75,000 per year. Why because not enough taxpayers demand that they pay for their own insurance. So it goes.
Fred Grygiel January 16, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Paul: Might also want to ask him about the decline of state aid to schools in general and Ridgewood in particular. Investing in the future human capital of our children is one of the most important decisions we make as a community.
jp1 January 16, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Why not give the superintendent the same benefits as the fat man, a multi million dollar mansion,helicopter and chauffeur for his car and then call it equal.
Josie January 16, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Your point about the school budget is well taken! In 1980 the Glen Rock school portion of our taxes was 58.06% and the municipal portion was 28.38% (I actually found a copy of my 1980 Borough Calendar with the tax chart when cleaning out my garage). 32 years later in 2012 with a larger tax bill it was 70% for the schools and 20% for the Borough (21% when you add in the library level with is now listed separately). So here is the million dollar question – why has the municipal portion been reduced by -7.38% per dollar while the education portion has increased by +11.94%? For the 21 cents on the dollar that I pay in taxes I get a lot of service from the town. The school budget is the true killer when it comes to property taxes. Until we deal with the school funding issues any so called taxpayer relief will never occur. It if you did away with half of the municipal budget taxes would still be far too high. No one would even notice the decrease except for what would not doubt be large scale reductions in the municipal services that people count on.
Fred Grygiel January 16, 2013 at 10:45 PM
josie you have outlined a research project that deserves to be undertaken by a joint ad hoc committee of the BOE+Borough. The lack of concerted cooperation over time has probably weakened the possibilities for seeing the tax problem as a common one. But let me note that the education of the Borough's children is clearly "the" most important commitment of a community to the future of their children. Is it worth it? Is there waste & excessive prerogatives for teachers & administrators? Judging by some of the comments the answer is a definite yes...what to do about it?
denise January 20, 2013 at 12:03 PM
Its all a vicous cycle isn't it and much much broader. ...everyone wants a mcmansion and a mercedes...the american dream but everyone is greedy and wants to make more so sg&a needs to increase for every employer not just schools and then someone suffers a cut to afford your mcmansion and eating out every night. If we didn't know what our neighbor made would you be happy with$165k...especially when the avg american salary is less than half that number. Downsize your standards and help contribute to the bigger issue at hand
chele February 06, 2013 at 02:24 PM
If CC wanted to make significant, lasting, worthwhile cuts, he should have started with the police, firefighters and teacher's UNIONS (any and all, including our sacred cow, the library)...NOT the superintendents (who are non-union). Makes an interesting headline for about two minutes and then...well, it's not much of anything at all. How about making it impossible to collect more than ONE pension and go from there? Requiring that public employees pay a more real-world portion of their healthcare is a drop in the bucket, but a start. The devil is in the contractual details of union salaries and the crushing cost of their lifetime benefits. Ken Gabbert was instrumental in negotiating a reduction in those costs for Rwd & he's being hung in the public square and maliged by Judas Donovan and the rest for his efforts. When a phys ed teacher makes more than the CEO of your district, something is most certainly out of whack. Parking meter collectors making over 82K? anyone remember that little story? It's the UNIONS STUPID...

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