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Matthews v. Board of Education of Town of Irvington

Decided: June 23, 1954.

WILLIAM B. MATTHEWS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE TOWN OF IRVINGTON IN THE COUNTY OF ESSEX, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Jayne, Stanton and Hall. The opinion of the court was delivered by Hall, J.s.c. (temporarily assigned).

Hall

The plaintiff appeals from an adverse judgment in the Law Division in his action in lieu of prerogative writ whereby he sought to compel the defendant to fix his pension at an amount greater than that being paid him.

The stipulated facts demonstrate that on June 30, 1953 the plaintiff, who was a teacher and athletic coach in the employ of the defendant board of education, retired and applied to it for a pension under the veterans' pension statute, R.S. 43:4-1 et seq. He met the requirements of the statute, being honorably discharged from the naval service of the United States in World War I, having attained the age of 62 years and having been continuously employed by the defendant for more than 20 years.

R.S. 43:4-3 provides:

"A person so retired shall be entitled, for and during his natural life, to receive by way of pension, one-half of the compensation then being received by him for his service , which shall be paid in the same way and in the same installments as his compensation has been payable."

During his last year of employment, the school year 1952-53, he received a salary of $5,400, which was paid to him by the defendant in equal semi-monthly installments. He was advised of this salary by formal letter of notification from the board, dated June 12, 1952, which he expressly accepted by appending his signature at the foot thereof. In addition, he received from the board, pursuant to the recommendation of the superintendent of schools and by action of the board at its meeting on December 10, 1952, the sum of $700, which was designated in the record of the board's action as an "honorarium" as head coach of football during the season then recently concluded.

The defendant fixed the plaintiff's pension at one-half of the $5,400 salary, or $2,700 per year, and has paid at that rate. The plaintiff contends that the $700 sum should also be included as part of "the compensation then being received by him for his service" and that his annual pension should therefore be in the amount of $3,050. His action sought to compel that result. The lower court denied him relief on the ground that the term "compensation," under the circumstances here present, was intended to include only his contractual salary. 29 N.J. Super. 232 (Law Div. 1953).

The question posed on this appeal therefore is: What "compensation" was being received by the plaintiff for his service at the time of his retirement?

While the statute requires us to determine the issue only in the light of the factual situation existing at the retirement date, we may be aided in resolving the question by the events of prior years. The plaintiff was first employed by the defendant on January 10, 1922, when it appointed him "to teach physical training to boys and coach athletics in the Irvington High School." He served in those capacities continuously from that date to his retirement, except for two years prior to 1931. At the board meeting of September 9, 1931 the plaintiff was appointed football coach for the school year beginning September 9, 1931, "but that

the matter of salary be laid over until the next meeting." We find no later record of the fixing of any such salary. However, annually thereafter, commencing with the meeting held January 13, 1932 and continuing to December 13, 1939, the board voted payment of additional sums to plaintiff, and other fall sport coaches, designated as "for services rendered," "for extra services," "for coaching services," or for "payment of extra services * * * to the coaches," varying in amount from $200 to $250. These payments were always voted after the conclusion of the sport season. Beginning with the year 1939, and for the football season of each year thereafter, the payments voted, ranging from $300 to $700, were designated as "honorariums," and were still authorized after the conclusion of each season. There is no evidence of any advance contractual or other arrangement providing for any of these payments.

Deductions, at the plaintiff's request, were made from the "honorariums" paid following the 1951 and 1952 seasons for contributions based thereon to the ...


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