Just Where Do Your School Tax Dollars Go?

The SCI (State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation) released a new report today, “Taxpayers Beware, What You Don’t Know Can Cost You”, that takes a look into questionable and hidden compensation for public school administrators. The full report can be found here:

Taxpayers Beware, What You Don’t Know Can Cost You(PDF)

Education and schools are hot topics on this blog, a quick look at just about any active set of comments will show a stream of questions and statements on schools. It’s obvious that education is a top priority for many of us. We’re willing to pay the high taxes typically associated with top school areas. But just where does that money go? This report is a big eye opener. I, for one, had no idea that administrative compensation was so high. While I feel that these people should be fairly compensated for their work, I don’t quite understand the justification for quarter million dollar salaries.

Caveat Emptor!

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35 Responses to Just Where Do Your School Tax Dollars Go?

  1. skep-tic says:

    the compensation does seem ridiculously high, but this is the result when the cost of living gets as high as it has around here.

    My wife is a teacher, and I know we were both shocked when we moved to the area and discovered that public school teachers could make 6 figures at the top of the pay scale. This is unheard of just about anywhere else in the country. Still, the better public schools in the area are among the best in the country, so in a sense you get what you pay for. Of course, the argument doesn’t stand in those areas with high taxes but crappy schools. And even though these salaries seem extreme, many of the more expensive areas have a hard time holding on to young teachers. Even though salaries are high relative to other parts of the country, it still doesn’t get you very far around here (of course a $250k administrator gig is a diff’t story).

  2. trroll says:


    I understand your stand on teacher’s salary and your argument why should they be high (the costs of living etc.). And I do not have a problem to pay top dollars to the best teachers. But I do mind to pay $100K to a teacher (using public money – er go, my taxes) to pay nice fat salary to ANY ON just because he/she is a TEACHER. I think one of the things to blame is the public school system in general as well as teacher unions and all those bureaucrats that are afraid to loose their jobs if the system was changed – for example: voucher system. As you might see I am a proponent of that system. What we have now does not work and need to be changed. The problem is: teachers (though not all of them), unions, state and local administration do not want it to change as they are afraid (rightfully) that many might loose their sweet and comfy jobs. We need a competition, same as we have in the REAL world where you get paid for what you know and how good you are – not for being a member of this or that union.

    P.S. Do not take it as an attack on teacher in general. I know how hard job it is – and personally I have deepest respect for teachers. But on the other hand I do not believe that we should admire/respect someone for just being a teacher if she/he is a lousy one. I am all for paying good money for/to good teacher – but let be honest – we need to get rid off the bad ones at the same time and not to harbor and protect them because they are TEACHERS.

  3. NJGal says:

    I have to agree with Trroll. My husband and I have had this discussion many times. There are good teachers and bad teachers. Like everyone else, teachers should be compensated based on merit – it’s how it would work in every other job in society. I would be perfectly happy to pay my tax dollars to retain good teachers and get rid of bad ones. You would probably attract a lot more good ones if they thought they could really do well by being good. Right now it seems people become teachers by default, when they can’t find something else to do. And when people don’t really want to do something and don’t like their jobs, well, why give them 100K just for being there?

    I also want to say that I have respect for teachers (my best friend is one) – this is not an attack on teachers, but on the system as it works now.

  4. chaoticchild says:

    I agree with everyone that the system has created an opportunity for many “bad” teachers to secure their employment in NJ.

    I am wondering if the “system” also exists in all other NYC suburb (Nassu, Westchester)?????

    comment anyone.


  5. trroll says:


    I agree with you as to that it’s parents responsibility to make sure their kids try their best to become the best they can. But on other hand we (parents) can’t be there (read: school) every minute of every day. And when our kids are at school it’s teachers responsibility to make sure that the kids get the best the can out of it – if they take an advantage of it or not that’s up to them and the parents to make sure they do. But I do not agree with you that nobody gives a damn about what they do and how they do it. Generalization like that really hurts the teachers that do care. Like everywhere else there are people that give 100% and those that don’t. The difference is, in a corporate world if do not give 100% (or at least pretend to so it looks like you do) you get booted out and your position is given to someone else. That’s unfortunately not the case when it some to government (any kind – local or state) – there is this unwritten rule of job security as a government employee that should not be. We all should account for what we do and how we do it – not for where we work and how good our union is.

  6. Anonymous says:

    There are good teachers and bad teachers. Like everyone else, teachers should be compensated based on merit

    Right, and the tenure system should be eliminated. Why should bad teachers have such job security?

  7. trroll says:


    I agree with you. It’s really unfortunate that we got so many teachers who teach because they are not good at any thing else or they are so discontent with corporate world and it’s hard reality that they decide to look for a refuge by landing a job in government. Case in point, a good friend of mine who is working for accounting company and is “sick and tired” (direct quote) of working 10-12 hours a day (tax season) and is looking for a job a TEACHER. I like the guy, but when I heard what he said – the first thing that came to my mind was – tell the name of the school that hires you so I know where not to send my kids.

  8. Anonymous says:

    GSML listings 3/6 – 24,111
    3/13 – 24,516

  9. Richard says:

    it’s a fallacy that teachers salaries are higher around here because the cost of living is higher. no. they’re higher because of unions and contracts which in the end may seem good for the individual but is bad for the aggregate.

    in realtion to the housing blog, unfortunately today we’re all caught in a bad place of asset inflation, stagnant wages, high taxes and diminishing services. this is what you get when the Fed tries to fight inflation by pumping dollars into the economy. in the end inflation will come home to roost and that’s what we’re finally starting to see. global wage arbitrage and foreign central banks eating our T-bills to stay competitive have kept it at bay.

  10. NJGal says:

    I also agree that parents play a huge part in education, but trroll said, parents can’t be there every minute of every day.

    It’s a real shame to hear your friend say that, although I’m sure he or she is not alone. I for one hate the corporate world too, but I like to think I know myself well enough to know that no matter what, I would never teach. I really am not that fond of kids over the age of 7. I can’t imagine spending all day with them. This is another reason I have respect for teachers:)

    And CC, it’s the same everywhere – I grew up on Long Island and if you think NJ teachers are well paid, check out some of the LI school systems.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The solution is easy: Vouchers of some sort..But teachers union is powerful and it has been bribing democratic party for years so this will continue forever.

    In ideal world, every kid would get a voucher worth of 75% of the current per/child costs in public school and parents had the option to keep a child in public school or go to good school (private). Teacher pay based on merit (schools had an incentive to keep good teachers).

    Standardized tests should prevent grade inflation.

    But I don’t expect this to happen..

  12. eastcoaster says:

    My brother is and my father was a teacher. They make (made) good money (brother currently at six figure mark). I agree that I think teachers need to be held accountable in some way to ensure they’re EARNING their salaries.

    However, beyond all that what sickened me reading that article was the cash-out value of unused leave (sick days, etc.). Here’s how it works in most of the “real” world – you get a certain number of paid leave days and you use them or lose them by a certain time period. Why do teachers get to cash them in?

    The system needs serious work. Particularly considering taxpayers are footing the bills.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Watch your towns for employee healthcare retirement liabilities. many towns are not accountng for it correctly and may be hit with huge liabilities.
    Reference “the trillion Dollar pothole” barrons article dated march 13, 2006.

    Many towns will be measuring the liability on an accrual basis for the first time.
    New jersey is rated the 3rd worse state for these retiree health liabilities.
    state funding for towns will be cut. That means more revenues needed to fund expenses in towns. Not good for property taxes. When you buy a house you better factor in increasing property taxes.This should reduce house prices more.

  14. Richard says:

    i think this article is a good indicator as to why many are deciding to either home school or send their kids to private school. taxes are outrageous in this part of the world and the services provided aren’t commensurate. now i know we all can’t send our kids to private school but maybe more could if one moved to a low tax area and didn’t buy some of those ‘essentials’ like a brand new car, big plasma TV, etc.

  15. skep-tic says:

    I would just like to add that both my wife and I couldn’t agree more that teacher’s unions have outlived their usefulness in many areas where teachers are highly paid. Unions often reward poor performance, and it is very frustrating for teachers who are creative and hardworking to see raises, promotions, etc doled out solely on the basis of seniority and connections. If it isn’t already common knowledge, people should know that there are teachers out there (such as my wife) who are more than comfortable competing in a more free market environment, and would actually prefer it. Unfortunately, the unions don’t seem to be going anywhere soon

  16. Anonymous says:

    hi, frequent visitor, sometime poster.

    could i get some help trying to find out how long a property has been on the market? i have an mls #, but don’t know where to look for the time on the market.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “could i get some help trying to find out how long a property has been on the market?”

    You can try posting your MLS # here and perhaps someone will respond. But bear in mind the sales-droids (AKA “Realtors”) will often change the MLS # for a property when lowering the price, or if it sits too long…

    The best way to shop a town, is to watch listings for several months, until you know all the houses in your price range by heart.

  18. Anonymous says:

    “I would just like to add that both my wife and I couldn’t agree more that teacher’s unions have outlived their usefulness…”

    They also haven’t helped General Motors, et al, compete with foreign auto makers any better.

  19. Just remember one fact though. Many parents do not understand education and are unwilling to accept constructive feedback on their kids.

    The unions are in general bad, but they also serve to protect teachers from parents [even well meaning parents] who have no clue about what they are complaining. Just because you are an involved parent and you pay property taxes doesn’t qualify you to make judgements about the qualifications or performance of educators. If you have bad teachers, blame the principals.

  20. trroll says:


    You are right but only partially when putting the blame on the principals. When new teacher is hired you do not really know how good or bad she or he really is until you can see how they perform and that takes time. And if the principal wants to fire bad teacher the union jumps in to protect him or her. You said that unions, at least partially, are to protect the teachers from parents who do not know a bit about teaching but are willing to give an advice. Well, it might be true, sort of, on other hand if you protect everybody without checking the fact – I call it protection by default – than what you create is an environment of mediocrity. Where no matter how good or bad you perform the rewords will be the same. Unless, you truly love the profession, there is not incentive to perform above the average – well, except for your own satisfaction.

  21. trroll says:


    Home schooling or sending to private schools gains popularity not because of outrageous taxes but because of bad and failing school systems. If you are a resident in the high tax area and the school system is a good or great one home schooling or sending your kids to privet schools does not really make any sense – unless to just brag about it – because you have already paid for it. It’s not like the town is going to give you the money back for not using their public school system. The only solution would be the voucher system – your money would go where you kid goes. And I am a true believer that the performance (read teachers performance) would follow the money as well.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Ah, what do I care where the NJ school taxes go. I owned my house for almost 20 years, truly loved it, took good care of it, etc, etc.

    And then the bottom dropped out, my company was sold, lost my job, looked everywhere, could find NOTHING. So I put my house on the market at the absolute TOP TOP TOP dollar. And I sold that sucker before Christmas. Took the money, put back my savings, moved a thousand miles away, bought me a very nice place for 1/5th (yes, one fifth) what I sold my old place for, Got my pension (hey, I was a stockholder in my old company, made sure there WAS a pension), applying for social security, still have some 401k left. Life is nice.

    AWAY FROM NJ. AWAY FROM IT. God, the taxes were killers. Free. Free. I’m still celebrating.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Anon at 1:01
    If you are so glad to be away from NJ why are you interested in this blog? or did you just want to brag?

  24. Michelle says:

    “could i get some help trying to find out how long a property has been on the market?”

    When we were looking I simply called or emailed the listing agent asking for the mls listing including days on the market (specifiy this or they won’t send the full listing). They usually sent it right over.

  25. pesche22 says:

    this is called the looting of the american taxpayers, not only in new jersey but around the country..
    And its going to get worst.
    Tax a look at the pensions in New jersey.(state workers)
    I could go on. We get what we deserve.

  26. pesche22 says:

    the number of homes for sale in January was 528,000. (new)

    used 2.9 million. (18 year high)

    Condos getting hit hardest

    Free fall may be coming .

  27. NJ Sucks says:

    After living in NJ for more than 10 years I have to say that the only reason I am still here is because I have some very close family here.

    I just can’t believe you only worry about the cost of teachers and not the cost of LAW ENFORCEMENT (Aka Police). After September 11 most Police officers have started making 2X and sometime 3X of what they used to make 7-8 years ago with overtime. No wonder why you see 2-3 police cars/backups pulling over somebody at the side of the road. Only in NJ!!!!

    Since my uncle is involved in politics in Hudson county he tells me that some of the senior police make more that 150k a year and they can go into pension in their thirties. In my town he have a couple of college dropouts PO in their late 20s who are driving in an M3 and an X5. I know because I live in the same block with the PD and sometimes the younger guy with the M3 zips around the block at 2AM after his night shift sometimes waking me up.

    No wonder why some towns want to pass laws that disclose the police officer salaries.

    The last 5-6 years the taxes have gone up %40.

    Money is running out….so get ready for the greatest “credit crunch” of the last 50 years.

  28. trroll says:

    nj sucks,

    I agree with your assessment. We do have a serious problem, in NJ and all over the country – though I think in NJ especially, when it comes to all government branches. And yes, we talked about the teachers in response to the article but your comment about police and firefighter salaries is right on the point. My wife and I used to live in Bayonne, NJ. It’s a quiet town with not much crime (though it sits next to JC) where taxes went up, in last 6 years, by over 50%. The police over there are a joke – there was a bank robbery 3 years ago – some pulled the deposit box out of the wall – the police had to call some detectives from JC to help them in investigation as they not idea how to proceed. The firefighters there are a laughstock of NJ – there is a joke that if you want your property to burn down to the foundation call in Bayonne FD (I wonder if the ever save any house from burning). But at the same time in last 4 years their salaries almost doubled. And every year they are asking for more money. I’ve been to few town meetings and finally got enough and moved out of the town.

  29. NJ Sucks says:


    I good friend of mine in Jersey City told me that 2 weeks ago 4 houses burned down completly or suffered major damage close to his house. Their excuse was that the water was freezing in the pipes.

    In addition another chocking event was they new tax assesment values in NJ. My aunt’s 100 year old house in Rutherford(close to park ave) was assesed at 430k.

    I won’t be surpized if folks start burning their houses if they found out that they cannot sell at these prices……

    This is something that we will start seeing in the coming years

  30. skep-tic says:

    just to give the other side of the argument, I wouldn’t want to be a cop or fireman even for $150k. they risk their lives on behalf of the community.

    On the other hand, unions definitely need to face reality on the pension issue, especially given that most municipal employees now make pretty good salaries. I think it is fair to pay cops, teachers, firemen, etc relatively high wages, but if you do, I also think it’s fair to expect them to pay for their own retirements. Pensions made sense when teachers and cops made $30k (w/o the pension, it would have been difficult to find people to do these jobs). Not now.

  31. trroll says:


    I’m all for risk and reward – the higher the risk the bigger the reward (salaries). But when you have a cop or fireman in Bayonne, NJ making same money as their counterparts in NY I found that’s ridiculous. Bayonne cops and firemen look really great – during St. Patrick’s parade. Am I bias? – yes – I used to live next to a cop and there were parties going on late at night – try calling cops to have them quiet down.

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