Superintendents rail against Cuomo’s proposal for salary caps


Superintendents and other school officials are not pleased with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to cap superintendents’ salaries based on student enrollment, with a maximum salary of $175,000 a year. Cuomo is modeling his plan on New Jersey, where regulations took effect Feb. 7 that cap annual salaries of superintendents in districts with fewer than 10,000 students at $175,000. In that state, school districts with more than 10,000 students can come to their own agreements on pay.

Cuomo said his plan would save about $15 million a year. Roughly 225, or 33 percent, of New York’s superintendents earn more than $175,000 a year, according to Cuomo’s administration.

“We must wake up to the new economic reality that government must be more efficient and cut the cost of bureaucracy,” he said in a statement. “We must streamline government because raising taxes is not an option,” he said in a statement.

Superintendents said Cuomo’s proposal is a “distraction” from the $1.5 billion in school-aid cuts he is recommending for the 2011-12 school year and the 2 percent cap on property taxes that he is seeking. They said they have been cutting back in the past few years, and they face ballooning costs for pension contributions, health insurance and other expenses.

The average superintendent salary in New York was $163,000 last year, compared to $160,000 nationally, the state Council of School Superintendents said. Education and living costs are higher in New York.

The council believes the governor is attempting to take attention away from the large budget cuts he has proposed, said Robert Reidy Jr., the group’s executive director.

“We think this issue is about resources for children and communities and school districts,” he said, “and quite frankly, we feel this is a diversion from the real issue at hand, that the governor’s proposal, with all of the cuts, has the potential to devastate many school districts.”

It’s difficult enough finding qualified candidates to serve as superintendents, and the governor’s proposal would make that job even tougher, said Brian Butry, a state School Boards Association spokesman.¬†Setting superintendents’ salaries is also a home-rule issue, he said.

“This has been a local decision and we tend to stick by that and we think that local communities and school boards should be the determining factor in what they want to pay superintendents,” he said.

Rochester city schools superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard said the change would be especially unfair to administrators in the state’s largest urban districts, which serve many students from challenging backgrounds and are facing increasing pressure to comply with state and federal accountability standards.

“I expect my colleagues are going to see this as one more attack on school superintendents,” said Brizard, who earns $235,000 a year.

Capping salaries would save a negligible amount when compared with the total cost of education in the state, Eastchester, Westchester County, Superintendent Marilyn Terranova said.

Superintendents, teachers and other school staff have been renegotiating salaries or not taking pay hikes, said Terranova, who has not had a pay hike in three years. Her annual salary is roughly $238,000 a year, she said, and her contract expires in 2014.

These are the proposed caps:

Tier 1, up to 250 students, $125,000
Tier 2, 251-750 students, $135,000
Tier 3, 751-1,500 students, $145,000
Tier 4, 1,501-3,000 students, $155,000
Tier 5, 3,001-6,500 students, $165,000
Tier 6, 6,501-plus students, $175,000


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  1. Jeff Olefson on

    While, I agree with the Superintendents and school board that this is decision that should be based upon market forces and best left to local school boards. It is likely that Cuomo will get his way. So I would like to suggest a small modification in his plan. Districts should be permitted to provide Superintendents with a residence in the district that would not be included in the cap. This would provide an built in adjustment for the higher housing expenses in some parts of the state. It would take away a difficulty for Superintendents, that being the cost of relocating especially in a difficult housing market. There is plenty of prescident for this proposal. Even the governor who made the point that his salary is lower than some Superintendents gets a home and so does the Education Commissioner. Universities have traditionally provided a residence for their Presidents and churchs sometime offer residences for their Pastors.

    Once paid off, the district would have a benefit to provide as an incentive to their Superintendent. It would increase the field of candidates on areas like Westchester, and Long Island where relalocation costs are a great deterrant and sometimes picked up by the districts anyway.

    Plus Superintendents could then be expected to live in the district as opposed to some basement apartment somewhere close.

  2. Hey, I have a MasterCard and I pay fees. I want to cap the salary of the CEO of MasterCard – my money pays his salary doesn’t it? And I gas up at Mobil…I want to cap his salary, too, so I can save money at the pump. I pay HIS salary. Ditto Jim Dolan @ Cablevision….Woody Johnson who owns the Jets (I buy Johnson & Johnson Q-Tips).

    Naw, forget it. The bad guys in the society are public employees, union members, trial lawyers, Hollywood and Democratic politicians. Let’s go after THEM full time, and pay no attention to those who are sucking up private dollars like there’s no tomorrow. To criticize MasterCard, Mobil, WHY THAT’S SOCIALISM !!!!