Washington Township Superintendent James Mervilde, who already has a salary and compensation benefit package worth more than a quarter million dollars annually, will see an increase in his annual salary of 7% and a $124,800 boost in his pension benefit, if the township's school board approves a proposed renegotiation of his salary and benefits at its meeting tomorrow night. This comes at a time the school district is expecting little or no additional state funding from the proposed state budget. Moreover, at least half of the school district's middle and elementary schools are failing at least one category of the state ISTEP test.
Dr. Mervilde is currently paid an annual salary of $171,600 under a contract that is set to expire on June 30, 2010. Mervilde exercised his right to renegotiate his current 3-year contract prior to its expiration. He is seeking an increase of 7% in his annual salary through June 30, 2011, taking it to $183,500. The biggest change, however, is in a proposed revision that will require taxpayers to purchase four years of credit time for Mervilde in the state teachers retirement system at a cost of $31,000 per year, or $124,000.
I'm told that this has become a common negotiating strategy for superintendents like Mervilde who are nearing retirement age to ask a school district to purchase credit time for purposes of calculating their retirement benefit. In lieu of a larger salary increase, the additional credit time the school district purchases on the school district official's behalf ensures a much higher retirement benefit for the employee. The school official is not taxed on the credit time purchase, enhancing its value to him or her greatly. These benefits are often not explained to the public to allow them to properly evaluate how much school officials are being paid.
School board member Greg Wright believes the nearly $200,000 salary and
benefits increase for Mervilde is too costly. “These are tough economic times for many in our community," Wright said. " Increasing any municipal employee’s employment contract by hundreds of thousands of dollars is simply outrageous.”
Superintendent Mervilde should be ashamed of his efforts to pad his own salary and benefits while residents in Washington Township struggle with unemployment, foreclosures, and high property taxes caused by the excessive spending in Washington Township Schools. It's too bad that Washington Township doesn't have more board members like Greg Wright, who is a true defender of taxpayers.
Contrary to what many people claim, this state's taxpayers haven't short-changed education. In fact we've dramatically increased education spending over the past few decades. The problem is the money often doesn't make it to the classroom, instead ending in the pockets of bloated administrative staff, which includes Superintendents like Mervilde.