Monday, June 04, 2007

If You Think Education Is Expensive. . .

. . .It Is!

The New York Times reports that the median compensation package for school Superintendents on Long Island for the 2007-08 school year will be $248,250.00.

With 124 districts, that comes to a ballbark figure of $30,783,000.00. That's nearly $31 million, just to cover the costs of Superintendents!

The most highly compensated Superintendent, Carole Hankin in Syosset, will rake in some $440,000.00 next year.

Nice work if you can get it!

Leaving aside the pros and cons of compensation to school Superintentents -- and the multitude of Assistant Superintendents (where the median pay package is $190, 750.00, with each district having one or more such deputies) -- we have to ask (and so should you), when is enough too much? Isn't $30,783,000.00 paid to 124 school chiefs (more than some school districts' entire annual budgets) too much to pay for Superintendents alone?

The answer lies, we suppose, in the politics of "more" and "mine." The theories go, "spend more and you'll get better," and, "sure, consolidate school districts, but not mine!"

If more is better, then clearly Long Island takes top spot when it comes not only to school districts, but to local government and special taxing districts of every kind.

In Nassau County alone there are 56 school districts and 54 library districts. There are 70 sewer and sewage related districts. More than 41 fire districts, each with multiple "elected" Commissioners, 31 fire protection districts, 24 village fire departments, 2 city fire departments, and 1 fire hydrant rental district (in case you ever need a spare on a Saturday night). 26 Commissioner-run water districts (which both tax homeowners and charge them quarterly for the water they use), 9 Town water districts, 7 village water districts, 2 city water districts, 3 water pollution control districts, and 1 water supply district.

And who could forget those sanitary districts -- some 74 of them in Nassau County.

There are, at last count, 54 other special districts in Nassau, including 1 sidewalk improvement district and -- believe it or not -- a Memorial Day Parade district.

Come on. Where's the "Get Out Of Bed In The Morining" district and the "Brush After Every Meal" district? Surely, someone could tax for these things as well -- Long Islanders would be glad to foot the bill -- and get a cushy patronage job or two for a friend or relative in the process.

With all of the districts, of virtually every kind and nature (some of which defy description), on our Long Island, is it any wonder that our property taxes are so high?

Then again, we enjoy paying two, three, four times the going rate for duplicative, wasteful services that can be furnished more efficiently and with far less attendant costs. After all, its worth it. Look at all the "local control" we have -- over toxins in our water, frivilous spending by our fire districts, full-time pay for part-time work in garbage collection, to name but a few -- and those fabulous "local contacts" -- our neighbors (and their son-in-laws) at the special districts -- who keep us so well informed, of everything from MTBE leaks to millions in highway bond money that never finds its way to our streets, you'd hardly know they were there!

Ah, what fun P.T. Barnum, to whom is credited the expression, "There's a sucker born every minute," would have on our Long Island!
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Click HERE to find the 2007-08 salary for the Superintendent in your school district.
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Demand for School Chiefs Pushes Salaries Up
By Ford Fessenden

SALARIES for school superintendents rose at a rate well above inflation on Long Island last year, according to new state figures, as school board officials say it is increasingly difficult to find the leadership needed to meet the high expectations of suburban parents and homeowners.

In Bay Shore, for example, Superintendent Evelyn Blose Holman negotiated a new contract in 2006 under which she received a 15 percent increase in salary and benefits in the first year, and an 8 percent increase in 2007-8. Including 15 days of vacation she can opt to take in cash, her pay and benefits will be worth slightly more than $355,000 next year.

School board members in Bay Shore, which ranks in the bottom third on Long Island in average income of residents per pupil, say they were happy to provide it.

“Knowing what’s out there and who you can hire, we know we have an excellent superintendent, and we have kept her for another five years,” said Gregory Nardone, the school board president.

For 2007-8, the median pay package for the top job in the Island’s 124 districts is $248,250, including salary and benefits, up 5.3 percent from 2006-7, according to data the districts reported to the state. Seventeen superintendents will make more than $300,000 in total compensation next year; 11 did so in 2006-7.

Carole G. Hankin, the Syosset superintendent, continues to be the highest-paid public school executive in the state, with salary and benefits worth nearly $440,000.

Superintendents’ pay has been rising about 5 or 6 percent a year for the last three years, mirroring other costs in school districts, which have also been advancing more sharply than the inflation rate of 3 percent.

The median pay package for assistant superintendents rose 6.1 percent, to $190,750. Eighty-five assistant superintendents on Long Island make more than $200,000, up from 50 in 2006. And teacher salaries go up 4 percent to 6 percent a year, district officials say.

At a time when residents are complaining about high property taxes, and the state is sending millions of new dollars to suburban school districts, Long Island districts now pay about $30 million, an increase of 16 percent since 2004-5, for the superintendents who oversee the education of 469,000 students.

School board officials say they see little alternative to the continued advance of salaries but also say they have little difficulty justifying the cost to voters. “Any place you live, people will complain,” Mr. Nardone said.

“People here are either for her or against her,” he said, referring to Dr. Holman.

The Bay Shore school board gave Dr. Holman a salary increase of 15 percent in 2006, to $240,000. This year, she is to get a raise of about 8 percent, according to the district’s assistant superintendent for business, Maureen Dutcher. Dr. Holman also has the right to cash in 15 days of vacation, worth an additional $17,591.

With an annuity, and insurance and pension payments, Dr. Holman’s $355,315 pay package will be the fifth highest on Long Island, and in the state, next year. In 2005, her total pay of $279,777 was 11th highest among the Island’s superintendents.

School board members say residents may express alarm at the compensation levels, yet they also demand that their school districts maintain reputations for high quality and achievement.

“The problem is you can’t get superintendents — nobody wants the job anymore, so you have to pay the freight,” said Allenby R. Lyson, the school board president in Oceanside. “Think about it. Half of the value of your house is based on your school district. You lose your good district reputation, you lose your house value. We’re aware of that.”

State law requires school districts to report the salaries of their top administrators, and any principals who make more than $110,000. Most districts comply, but some do not, and state officials say they have no authority to compel them.

In some districts where there appeared to be a large increase in pay, school board members said they were actually disclosing for the first time perks or benefits that superintendents had already been getting. A law passed in the wake of the embezzlement scandal in the Roslyn district in 2004 required the state comptroller to audit all districts by 2010, and some boards are bending over backward to disclose payments to school leaders.

In Jericho the board reported for the first time the value of payments made on behalf of Superintendent Henry L. Grishman to the teacher retirement system, which showed that his compensation package next year, $378,039, was 14 percent higher than it appeared to be this year.

“We had not been reporting that, and we have auditors coming,” said Barbara Krieger, the school board president. “It is our effort to be more transparent.”

Dr. Grishman is the fourth highest paid superintendent on Long Island, up from seventh last year.

A few districts replaced superintendents and reported lower compensation packages. In Plainedge, where an assistant superintendent, Christine P’Simer, will replace the outgoing superintendent, John A. Richman, next year, the salary and benefits package will drop 14 percent. She will make more than $245,000 in pay and benefits in her first year.

“We don’t think superintendents are paid too much,” said Patricia Zinke, the Plainedge board president. “The pool of experienced people is not big enough, and it’s a 24/7 job.”

The salaries of Long Island school administrators are not out of line with other school costs. At 1.85 percent of total budgets, on average, the Island’s administrative costs are below the median for the state, which was 2 percent, according to state calculations from 2004. But other costs on the Island are also high.

Census figures released last week show that Long Island districts rank at the very top among more than 10,000 school districts across the nation in spending per pupil, except for a few in sparsely populated areas that must hire more teachers to reach students. Among districts with more than 250 students, 13 of the top 24 in spending per pupil were on Long Island or in Westchester, with the rest in Alaska and Wyoming, according to the census.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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