First Selectman Pat Llodra said she often hears from town employees that there is a perceived disparity in pay between what they earn and their peers at the Board of Education.
"Certainly I hear that often…that there is an imbalance, but I can't say for sure that there is," she said.
Data released by the town and school district at Newtown Patch's request, showed that as a group, school district administrators, excluding the schools superintendent, had the highest median gross salary, nearly twice that of a town department head during fiscal year 2009-10.
In turn, municipal department heads, which run the gamut from registrars of voters to the finance director, had a median gross salary that was slightly more than that of a teacher, according to the data.
The data, however, included teachers who only worked part-time or part of the fiscal year. Using data provided by the Connecticut Department of Education, which rolled the part-time hours into full-time-equivalent hours, Newtown's average full-time teacher salary was in fact slightly more than the median gross salary for a town department head.
Llodra, a former educator, said Newtown as a community values teachers so their salaries should reflect that, particularly given that nearly all teachers possess at least a master's degree. In general, educators dominated the list of top gross salaries for 2009-10.
"On the other side of the question is as this town faces more and more complex issues, we need to have highly qualified people on the town side," she said, adding that she doesn't expect to bring up this issue in the near term because of the financial burden facing the town, but that it was something that needed to be explored in the future.
"We are needing more and more sophistication, more expert knowledge, more training at the department head level, more than ever before," Llodra said.
School officials said the salary of a Newtown teacher was comparable to teachers in Monroe, Fairfield, Trumbull, Greenwich and other towns that belong to the same district reference group, or DRG-B.
"I don't think we're benchmarking against the town, we're benchmarking against other schools," Board of Education chairman Bill Hart said.
According to average salary data from the state Department of Education, the average full-time Newtown teacher's salary – $68,796 – ranked at no. 13 among the 21 districts in DRG-B.
The latest state figures also showed Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson, pulling in a salary of $174,932, which put her at no. 15 among the 21 superintendents in DRG-B. The state's salary for Robinson included compensation not reflected in the town's data.
In contrast, Newtown school principals – average $138,758 – and assistant school principals – average $121,121 – generally made more than their peers in the DRG, according to state data. Newtown principals and assistant principals placed at no. 3 and no. 6 respectively in terms of DRG-B average salaries.
Robinson said the Board of Education decided several years ago to keep administrators' salaries near the top of the DRG-B pay scale because the district was competing with others in Fairfield County that belong to the more affluent DRG-A.
According to state figures for 2009-10, school principals in DRG-A, which includes Darien, New Canaan and Ridgefield, earned between $138,000 and $158,000 while assistant school principals earn $107,000 and $135,000.
The town and school administrators are in the midst of contract negotiations.
In other positions, police sergeants and lieutenants as group earned the second most behind the administrators, with a median gross salary of $86,174, while police officers earned a median of $70,127 and public works employees $59,059.
One police officer's salary made it to the top 25 highest gross salaries in town, even surpassing the police chief's salary. The additional income was due to overtime and side jobs overseeing road work and other construction projects for which private businesses reimbursed the town.
Overall, the median gross salary of a town employee was $56,863 and Board of Education employee, $49,650. All of these figures included part-time workers as well as those who only worked part of the fiscal year.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities did not have average figures for municipal workers, though it provided ranges for certain key positions in towns with a similar population of between 20,000 and 40,000.
First Selectman: $93,000 to $113,000
Police chief: $93,000 to $113,000
Public works director: $86,000 to $115,000
Planning and zoning director: $55,000 to $108,000
Finance director: $85,000 to $119,000
Tax collector: $55,000 to $77,000
Tax assessor: $55,000 to $106,000
Technology director: $58,000 to $111,000
CCM spokesman Kevin Maloney said salary amounts depended on the person's experience and affluence of the particular municipality.