Published Online: April 5, 2010

Some N.J. School Bosses Sharing Pain of Aid Cuts

Administrators in nearly five dozen New Jersey school districts are freezing their pay this year to help reduce the number of teachers and other staff who would be laid off because of the governor's massive school aid cuts

But one south Jersey school superintendent put himself at the head of the class by cutting his own $160,000 salary by more than $115,000, and planning to return to work in the fall at a starting teacher's salary of $43,660 — with no benefits.

Joseph Cirrinicione, superintendent of Lower Township schools in Cape May County, says he feels compelled to share in the sacrifices that others in his district are forced to make. He will retire in June but return in November as interim superintendent with the reduced pay.

"Everybody has to make this work," he told The Press of Atlantic City. "Everybody's got to do their little part."

Cirrinicione said the district would save about $120,000 by cutting his salary and eliminating benefits for a year.

Teachers agreed to 2 percent annual raises for three years and will contribute 1.5 percent of the cost of their health insurance. Those initiatives, coupled with other cuts, will enable Lower Township to save the jobs of 32 teachers who otherwise would have been laid off.

The district is losing $2.1 million in state aid. Its budget this year will be $25.9 million, down more than $3 million from last year. But homeowners won't have to pay an additional cent in school taxes this year.

Cirrinicione, who is known for delivering food to needy families in Lower Township, will work as an "interim superintendent" starting in November, but will be paid as if he were a novice teacher.

He did not respond to interview requests. But he told the Press of Atlantic City, "These are my people. I've made a nice living. Lower Township has been good to me. I think everybody's got to give a little back."

"I think he is an example for others," said Gov. Chris Christie, who has gone after teacher unions — hard — in an effort to deal with New Jersey's financial woes. School spending is by far the largest component of property taxes in New Jersey.

"He's an example of saying, 'We've got to put the kids first, and I want to make the sacrifice. I'm making a good salary and I'm willing to sacrifice,' " Christie said.

Christie has proposed an $820 million reduction in aid to schools to help balance a $29.3 billion state budget.

Cirrinicione is believed to be the only New Jersey school administrator willing to cut his own pay this year, according to the state Department of Education.

But administrators in 56 other districts are freezing some or all of their pay this year to help deal with the aid cuts.

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