The three-judge panel said Cerf’s plan to base superintendents’ salaries on the number of students in their respective districts reflects the state Legislature’s goal to have the pay based on per-pupil cost.
“The commissioner’s action was consistent with that principle and there is nothing arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable in the commissioner’s effort to rein in spending with salary caps based on enrollment,” the 27-page decision said.
The New Jersey Association of School Administrators and three superintendents brought the suits in January 2011 after the state Department of Education adopted new regulations limiting the salaries at up to $125,000 for a district with a total enrollment of 250 students or less and up to $175,000 for districts with an enrollment of 6,501 or more. It also gave some flexibility for districts with more than 10,000 students.
At the time, the three superintendents challenging the rules, Robert Holster in Passaic, James F. O’Neill in the Chathams and Rene Rovtar in Long Hill, had negotiated salaries that would have put them over the proposed caps. Holster’s salary was $218,762 in a district a cap of $177,500; O’Neill’s salary was $217,213 in a district with a cap of $165,000 and Rovtar had a salary of $155,000 in a district with a cap of $145,000.
"We’re obviously pleased that the court so emphatically upheld these common sense reforms to hold down superintendent salaries that had grown out of control for local taxpayers," said Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts. "Just as importantly, today’s ruling sent an important message that attempts to circumvent the cap are not just a slap in the face to taxpayers, but unlawful as well."
Anne H. Gallagher, a spokeswoman for the association, said the board has not decided whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
“The leadership does not agree with the ruling and is disappointed with the court’s findings,” she said.
In May, the Supreme Court said the state has the right to limit how much retiring school administrators can receive for unused sick time.