Cuomo Takes Aim at Superintendent Salaries

Albany, NY - The latest report from the Washington-based Tax Foundation shows New Yorkers are still paying the highest state and local taxes in the nation.

And, a large portion of your local property tax bill pays for education.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to cut that bill by going right to the top and taking aim at most district's highest paid employees - the superintendents.

"Taxes are going through the roof, and they're the highest in the nation, and salaries are one of the reasons why," says Cuomo.

Outside of New York City, on average, more than 62-percent of your property tax bill pays for schools.

The top earner in most districts is the superintendent.

"Some of these salaries were just extraordinary and really out of whack," says Cuomo.

The Williamsville Central School District Superintendent makes $200,000 a year. Hamburg's new superintendent makes more than $173,000, while Ken-Ton pays more than $193,000. The Eden Central School District Superintendent has one of the lower salaries we found on the NY State Education Department's website, $135,000. And, the superintendent of Niagara Falls City Schools makes more than $165,000.

Governor Cuomo believes that as school districts compete for leaders, salaries rise costing taxpayers more.

"We should stop the bidding wars that we engage in with ourselves. Where one school district offers a salary, and then the neighboring school district has to up that offer. And, I think if we stop that, we'll go a long way," says Cuomo.

And, he does not necessarily think taxpayers are getting all that big of a bang for their buck.

"It would be one thing if we were spending the most, but we had the best education system. We're spending the most, and we're decidedly in the middle of the pack in terms of results," says Cuomo.

Not everyone agrees with the Governor.

The Western New York Educational Service Council's Robert Christmann thinks salaries are right on par.

"One of the things that I've seen as a former 22-year superintendent is it's a job that is 24/7. I can't tell you how many evenings all superintendents are out, weekends that they're out, that they give up for school activities because they really enjoy it, but it's certainly time away from the family," says Christmann.

Christmann says school boards set salaries for superintendents, and since board members are elected by taxpayers, those taxpayers should elect different people if they are upset about the salaries.

"If they're unhappy about it, then they can change the board members, but I do think that when you look at the totality of what it's like to be a superintendent in 2014, it's a job that has few equals. The responsibility is great, and I think the compensation the boards give them is a fair compensation for the responsibilities and the quality of the jobs that they do," says Christmann.

The Governor stopped short of saying he would push for a salary cap for superintendents like he did in 2011. That is when he said he would be able to save taxpayers $15-million a year. Ultimately, that proposal was not successful.


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