With just 566 students, Mendham Borough is one of the smallest school districts in the state.

But thanks to bonuses and perks, Superintendent Mitzi Morillo’s compensation package last year was one of the most expensive.

That $203,000 total includes $5,046 in additional health benefits beyond what teachers in the district received, $20,237 in performance bonuses, and a whopping $43,170 in expense allowances — the most for any superintendent in the state and nearly $7,000 more than the second-highest.

In all, Morillo’s compensation bypassed the state salary cap for superintendents of districts the borough’s size by $68,000.

The superintendent salary cap is one of Gov. Chris Christie’s landmark reforms from his first term. Since it went into effect in 2010, it has been fiercely opposed by superintendents and school boards as an obstacle in attracting and retaining talented school administrators.


Salary caps:
— 749 students or less — $147,794
— 750 to 2,999 — $169,689
— 3,000 or more — $191,584
— 10,000 or more — State commissioner may grant waiver

— 2 percent annual raises
— 14.99 in total merit bonuses
— $5,000 for districts with high schools
— $15,000 for shared superintendents
— $5,000 to take on another job, like principal

See below to find out how much your superintendent was entitled to last year.

But like Christie’s other key law — the property tax cap, which provides for a long list of exceptions that allow municipalities to raise taxes by more than the advertised 2 percent limit — the superintendent salary cap has its own holes.

The caps, for example, never applied to superintendents of county vocational or special education districts.

As a result, the compensation last year for Mark Finkelstein, superintendent of the 700-student Middlesex County Regional Services Commission, was valued as much as $336,000.

Passaic County Vocational schools superintendent Diana Lobosco was the only other schools chief to break the $300,000 mark last year with salary, perks and a $41,775 stipend for doubling as the superintendent for the Passaic County Educational Services commission.

Scroll to end of story to search all superintendent salaries and perks and see our Top 20 list of highest superintendent perks.

For regular district superintendents, the law's merit bonuses has allowed them to earn up to 14.99 percent more than their salary caps.

Adding more to their paychecks are so-called allowances – reimbursements for car expenses, meals, tuition and professional association fees and conferences. These allowances – often overlooked in discussions about the salary cap — are limitless.

A New Jersey 101.5 review of state Department of Education data found 18 superintendents last year who collected more than $20,000 in allowances, while 97 collected at least $10,000.

In May, the state loosened the salary caps, raising the lowest cap for the smallest district from $125,000 to $147,794 and the highest from $175,000 to $191,584. Superintendents with a high school in their district get an additional $5,000, double the previous high school stipend.

And for the first time, the new regulations allow superintendents to earn 2 percent annual raises above their caps. As before, school chiefs will also get bonuses and allowances.

State Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren, who opposes a legislative effort to eliminate the cap entirely, calls superintendent compensation “a racket.”

“These perks are obviously an end-run around some of the caps that have been put in place, and this is one of the reason why taxes are so high in New Jersey, and why New Jersey is so unaffordable,” he said.

Doherty says the governor of the state of New Jersey makes $175,000 a year.

“A superintendent of a school district with a thousand students, how can that individual claim that they should get paid more than the governor of the state which has 9 million residents?”

But Michelle Rosenberg, superintendent in the tiny Hudson County town of Guttenberg, says a more apt comparison would be to a CEO in the private sector, who she says would be getting paid three times as much as a school superintendent for doing comparable work.

Rosenberg’s salary last year was capped at $145,000 but she received $21,736 in bonuses and another $30,700 in allowances, most of which covered tuition reimbursement for her pursuing a doctorate degree. Tuition reimbursement is a common perk for superintendents and even for teachers in some districts.

Rosenberg, however, points out that she hasn’t received a raise in five years.

“I understand that we need limits, but to not be able to get raises when the cost of living has gone up isn’t fair. Everybody else gets 2 percent raises across the board in any industry.”

North Brunswick Superintendent Brian Zychowski says it doesn’t make sense for the law just to cap superintendent salaries.

Even though superintendents are the chief executives of any district, the cap has resulted in cases in which district business administrators and school principals are earning more than their bosses.

The new salary cap will help Zychowski. The old cap cut his base salary in 2015 by $42,862. But weeks after the new cap went into effect in May, Zychowski negotiated a new contract that will bump his pay by almost 20 percent to $200,500 — slightly less than what he was making two years ago.

“We live in a free enterprise system and school boards are supposed to have local control. Salaries are based upon an annual budget that is voted upon,” he said. “If it’s truly local control then it should be up to the local board of education.”

Dohery, who thinks there should be fewer school districts and administrators, doesn’t buy the argument that districts need to offer high salaries to attract candidates.

“When these jobs open there are dozens if not hundreds of applicants, so the idea that we have to pay over $200,000 a year to fill a superintendent slot anywhere in New Jersey is outrageous.”

Top 20 superintendent perks

New Jersey 101.5 crunched the administrator salary database compiled by the state Department of Education to tabulate the highest bonuses and perks paid in the state last year.

Some caveats about this data.

This is from last year, and the amounts could be either more or less this year.

In the case of Mendham Borough's Morillo, for example, Business Administrator Jim Rollo said the bulk of the $43,170 in allowances was to reimburse Morillo for her participation in an accelerated graduate program, which she has since completed. Her allowances this year will amount to about $4,000, he said.

Rollo also cautioned that the data may not be useful for making comparisons or drawing conclusions because some districts may not have accurately reported their numbers. The state data, for example, shows that three dozen superintendents did not receive allowances.

"It would be naïve to think that those individuals are not members of professional organizations, attend professional development or utilize laptops or cell phones in the performance of their duties," he said.

David Saenz, a spokesman for the Department of Education, says the state cannot review the data that districts report because the state does not have the superintendents' contracts.

The department's "user-friendly budget" website, where the administrative salary is made available, also notes that the department "has not approved this information, nor is the department responsible for its accuracy.”

Some districts may also have new superintendents with different contracts.

Scroll below our Top 20 list to search for your superintendent.


Kingsway Regional

James Lavender
School enrollment: 2,562
Base salary: $167,500
Allowance: $10,525
Bonus: $25,109
Extra insurance: $8,284
Total: $211,418



Lauren Barbelet

Lauren Barbelet
School enrollment: 766
Base salary: $145,000
Allowances: $19,897
Bonus: $2,473
Extra insurance: $2,473
Total: $189,106



Englewood Public Schools

Robert Kravitz
School enrollment: 3,102
Base salary: $167,500
Allowances: $17,500
Bonus: $25,108
Extra insurance: $2,000
Total: $212,108



Watchung Hills Regional

Elizabeth Jewett
School enrollment: 2,145
Base salary: $157,500
Allowances: $22,847
Bonus: $23,467
Extra insurance: $334
Total: $204,148



Back to school concept

Scott Feder
School enrollment: 1,199
Base salary: $155,000
Allowances: $17,300
Bonus: $23,235
Extra insurance: $6,437
Total: $201,972



Harding Township School

Matt Spelker
School enrollment: 303
Base salary: $135,000
Allowances: $24,425
Bonus: $20,238
Extra insurance: $2,678
Total: $182,341



SAT Scores Up As Record-Breaking Numbers Of Students Take The Test
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Dr. Margaret Hayes
School enrollment: 5,480
Base salary: $167,500
Allowances: $21,634
Bonus: $25,108
Extra insurance: $952
Total: $215,194



Cresskill Public Schools

Michael Burke
School enrollment: 1,789
Base salary: $157,500
Allowances: $6,980
Bonus: $23,610
Extra insurance: $17,210
Total: $205,300



Ridgewood Public Schools

Daniel Fishbein
School enrollment: 5,640
Base salary: $167,500
Allowances: $16,552
Bonus: $25,125
Extra insurance: $6,610
Total: $215,787 $215,787



NJ school heat closings

Richard Kuder
School enrollment: 2,073
Base salary: $155,000
Allowances: $29,140
Bonus: $23,248
Extra insurance: $786
Total: $208,174



(Guttenberg Public Schools)
(Guttenberg Public Schools)

Michelle Rosenberg
School enrollment: 1,003
Base salary: $145,000
Allowances: $30,700
Bonus: $21,736
Extra insurance: $1,885
Total: $199,321



(Morris Hills Regional)
(Morris Hills Regional)

James J Jencarelli
School enrollment: 2,777
Base salary: $167,500
Allowances: $28,000
Bonus: $25,108
Extra insurance: $2,000
Total: $222,608



Backpack with school supplies

Mackey Pendergrast
School enrollment: 5,229
Base salary: $167,500
Allowances: $28,515
Bonus: $25,110
Extra insurance: $1,653
Total: $222,778



(Richard Katz/Twitter)
(Richard Katz/Twitter)

Richard Katz
School enrollment: 5,140
Base salary: $167,500
Allowances: $7,260
Bonus: $14,573
Extra insurance: $35,344
Total: $224,677



Katerina Maylock, with Capitals Educators, points on a student's worksheet as she teaches a test preparation class at Holton Arms School, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016 in Bethesda. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo)

Mark J. Finkelstein
School enrollment: 704
Base salary: $277,122
Allowances: $14,838
Bonus: $39,946
Extra insurance: $4,425
Total: $336,331



(Passaic County Vocational)
(Passaic County Vocational)

Diana Lobosco
School enrollment: 3,359
Base salary:$247,463
Allowances: $17,875
Stipend: $41,775
Total: $307,113



(Clementon Public Schools)
(Clementon Public Schools)

R. Lynn DiPietropolo
School enrollment: 435
Base salary: $135,000
Allowances: $24,925
Bonus: $20,237
Extra insurance: $16,787
Total: $196,949



School, backpack, back

Dirk Phillips
School enrollment: 1,897
Base salary: $157,500
Allowances: $28,400
Bonus: $23,609
Extra insurance: $10,035
Total: $219,544



Empty Classroom In Elementary School
(UIG via Getty Images)

Mitzi Morillo
School enrollment: 566
Base salary: $135,000
Allowances: $43,170
Bonus: $20,237
Extra insurance: $5,046
Total: $203,453



(Hudson County Schools of Technology)
(Hudson County Schools of Technology)

Frank Gargiulo
School enrollment: 2,357
Base salary: $225,367
Allowances: $4,269
Bonus: $65,333
Total: $294,969


Find your superintendent

David Matthau contributed to this report.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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