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(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula on Monday welcomed Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to control superintendent salaries, but said his legislation to centralize public school administration and governance at the county level would save more than the governor’s plan to cap superintendent pay.

“New Jersey taxpayers have reached a tipping point on taxes, “said Chivukula (D-Somerset/Middlesex). “They can no longer afford to pay six-figure salaries for hundreds of superintendents and assistant superintendents along with the costs of other administrators. This legislation could go a long way toward streamlining expenses and cutting costs without hurting education.”

One bill (A-2622) would ask voters in November 2011 whether to establish a county administrative school district to centralize public school governance and operations at the county level.

The other bill (A-2623) would provide a governance structure for counties in which voters approve establishing a county administrative school district.

“New Jersey’s system of 600 school districts each governed by their superintendents is a relic that we can no longer afford,” Chivukula said. “In this time of economic crisis, we need to carefully examine what our costs are and how we can reduce them.”

Chivukula noted the Office of the State Auditor in 2006 estimated it costs taxpayers about $553 million statewide for the salary and benefits for superintendents, assistant superintendents, school business administrators and information technology coordinators.

“We have the potential to save a lot of money for taxpayers by streamlining this system, much more than the $10 million the governor is seeking to save by capping superintendent pay,” Chivukula said. “At the end of the day, it will be a greater help to the taxpayers.”

Under the legislation, if voters approved a county administrative school district, a county school board would be established and a chief school administrator would be appointed by the governor, and they would be responsible for supervising county district operations.

A board of school estimate would develop a county administrative school district budget and would determine the amount of school taxes necessary for the operation of the district.

The law would allow local boards of education to remain in place, but these boards would only be advisory.

The county board appointed by either the county executive or freeholder director, with advice and consent from the freeholder board.

Local school district administrative and supervisory personnel positions would be abolished.

The law also would provide that students remain in the school in which they were enrolled before the establishment of the county administrative school district.

“Nothing in this bill would hurt public education,” Chivukula said. “As a matter of fact, it may help by freeing up more money for the classroom. The only thing this bill would do is bring some reason to a complicated and outdated system.”