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Monday Morning Quick Hits

Posted by whforums on November 16, 2008

Four quick hits for your Monday morning.

1. This piece from the Hartford Courant about Superintendent Sklarz’ salary and benefits. Bringing in a new superintendent will bring significant short term salary relief (we’d hope), and maybe some of those more extreme benefits (like $6,000 for driving your own car) could go away, too. The picture associated with the story is priceless (as long as you’re not the superintendent!).

2. The Courant also offers up this informative (though generally optimistic) read of BBS. Condos are still available if you want in (or can afford to get in).

3. A quick, positive review of The Counter over at Adventures through Connecticut. The wife and I have eaten at The Counter (I’m something of an english muffin fiend, and the idea of putting my burger on an english muffin was a vague form of heaven) and thought it was great. Surprisingly hard place to get into — but once PF Chang’s opens (have you seen the front of PF Changs and how it’s reshaped the mall? That’s for another post …), I’m sure that will relieve some pressure …

4. Most importantly, check out this post about Regionalism and Greater Hartford over at The Greater Hartford Real Estate Blog. It’s an informative and essential read for anyone interested in the topic of regionalism or the general future well being of the communities we share.

10 Responses to “Monday Morning Quick Hits”

  1. sujal said

    While I don’t want to defend the contract with sklarz, can we all agree to stop with the attempts to score points by characterizing things before understanding what they’re about?

    I don’t understand why the car benefit is “extreme” for “driving your own car,” as if this is some unheard of thing. Just about every company I worked for offered a mileage reimbursement for using my own car for business purposes (say, driving to NYC for a meeting or convention). At the last rate I remember getting, $6K covers about 15K miles per year. At the IRS’s 2008 rates, it covers about 10K miles.

    We can debate what miles should be covered, and how many miles he drives on official business vs. just commuting, but I have a feeling that this beats the cost of a district-owned car plus insurance plus maintenance plus a gas card.

    Like I said, I’m not defending it, per se, but “driving your own car” is a setup to make him look bad for those that don’t read the contract.


  2. sujal said

    sigh, I edited too much out (or left the wrong things in 🙂 ).

    What I mean is, the perception makes it seem like this benefit is unquestionably a waste of money. It’s not clear it is, especially since the article or post don’t make any effort to explain the benefit (e.g. by calling the district).

    The town debate drives me nuts — we’re quick to assume the worst about the district, the unions, the council without people stopping for 30 seconds and going, “Geez, why would they DO that?”

    There may be good reasons or bad ones, but that’s where the debate should be, not trying to pin motivations on people.

    Also, I wonder if this benefit should simply be scaled back (the key question, to me, is how many miles he drives for official business outside of commuting).

  3. WHTaxpayer said

    People should actually read the document. It indicates that Dr. Sklarz is being paid nearly $260,000 by the taxpayers of WH (and may moonlight, as well). Regarding the car, he is not being reimbursed for business miles. He is simply being paid an annual stipend of $6,000 with no strings attached. With generous wages and lavish benefits like these, it is no wonder that WH is running a deficit despite increasing taxes 42% in the last six years. The BOE should be ashamed.

  4. John Hardy said

    Should the BOE be ashamed? How does this employment contract benchmark with arrangements made for superintendents for similarly-situated communities?

    We are a big community, with a big population, and some growing challenges for school administrators. I’m willing to consider that the contract is too generous, but only if we are able to measure it in proper context. And I’ve seen no information put forth that permits that sort of comparative analysis.

    The timing of the Courant’s “disclosure” is curious though…..

  5. sujal said

    @WHTaxpayer: yes, but it’s so he doesn’t need/use a town owned vehicle. That might actually save money (here, take 6K and agree to use your own vehicle for all official travel around the district). There’s nothing wrong as long as he does actually drive enough miles to make this cost effective. It might even be smart because it caps district costs…

    I’m with John Hardy. WTF is this BS? Don’t tell me just how much he’s getting paid, tell me how much he SHOULD be getting paid, and then justify it in a thoughtful manner. No one ever does that…


  6. whforums said

    @Sujal: I think you’re right in that my tone is likely too snarky, and what’s dangerous about that is that I allowed the article in question to impart that snarkiness. At the same time, I was feeling snarky, so the percentage of my snark that was rooted in my own general malaise I own and stand by.

    I will freely grant that I’ve never been superintendent of schools, and it seems to me to be a thanklessly public job. But I’m also not sure if there should be $6,000 of travel comp for someone making almost 200k (the operative question, clearly, is how much are the superintendent’s motor vehicle costs, excluding commute, in a given year). I guess, as we all do, I put this in my own context. I make about 50k a year (none from this blog, mind you!) Over the course of a year, I probably ring up about $500 of gas expenses that I could charge to the company. But I’ve never actually sought reimbursement. Why? First, because it’s a pain in the butt, but second, because I don’t necessarily feel entitled to it. I get that the scales tip the more money someone sinks in to their tank, and I don’t hold it against someone who seeks compensation in the context of a high expense to income ratio. I guess my point is, if we’re going to agitate for a more ethical capitalism, maybe we should look at executive salaries and say “If you’re making x amount of dollars, then your entitlement pool shrinks.” Right now it’s very much the opposite.

  7. sujal said

    I think an income standard to be eligible for business expenses seems prone to being unfair. Where do you draw the line? if he needs a laptop for travel, should he provide it himself? A blackberry? the service plans for network access for those devices?

    I certainly agree with you about filing the expense reports end of it, but that’s your choice. No one is forcing you to drive your car and not get reimbursed, right?

    Look, it’s not the snark that bothers me (and this isn’t about your post, per se, but the Courant’s shoddy piece). It’s the idea that “they’re getting away with something” that really pisses me off, that the target of our scrutiny are adversaries or, even worse, from people like Visconti and Aron, that these people are dishonest, ungrateful, awful, bad people.

    Certainly, I’m willing to believe that bad people exist, even in our town’s leadership, perhaps. But no one ever actually tries to show it. They find some fact or two that bothers them because “they” would never ask for this (even though they actually might…) and then impugn the character of their targets straight away.

    I don’t know about you, but if I was told that I would have about $6K in gas and travel, I would want to get reimbursed even though I (used to) make close to $100K.

    I was just laid off, and was, prior to that, asked about taking a pay cut. It’s not a good feeling on either count. So when we walk up to the teachers union and ask them to take a pay cut and they balk, why is that worthy of name calling? From my perspective, it’s perfectly natural to say, uh, no. Or, at least, tell me why this is necessary and, “are you sure the money can’t be found elsewhere”

    I don’t want to make them seem like angels in this, because that’s not what I think. I’m just focusing on the path we take from a few facts that “rub us the wrong way” and then the name calling stupidity that follow. There are too few steps and not enough thinking in between.


  8. WHTaxpayer said

    The BOE should be ashamed for repeatedly misleading the public with regard to Dr. Sklarz’s compensation. How many times in the past 18 months have we been told of his $188k salary, when in truth his “Base Salary” is far higher? Dr. Sklarz makes as much over and above his purported $195k base than the average West Hartford household earns in total. The “stipends, reimbursements and deferred income” merely obfuscate the truth about Dr. Sklarz’s total compensation.

  9. sujal said

    and WHTaxpayer shows up, on cue, to demonstrate my point…

  10. WHTaxpayer said

    Happy to oblige. I’m merely pointing out the lack of transparency that has so often been discussed on this and other sites.

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