At the Sept. 22 City Council meeting, aldermen approved raises for the members of the next City Council (the nine aldermen and the mayor), the City clerk, the Township supervisor and the Township assessor. The raises will go into effect next May, when the next City and Township officials are sworn in.
A compensation committee appointed by Mayor Lorraine Morton recommended incremental increases in salaries for all but the City clerk’s position, but aldermen voted 8-1 to make the full increases immediate instead. The salary for the City clerk, the only full-time elected position, was increased by $1,000, from $49,000 to $50,000 per year, for the period 2009-12.
Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, held firm against all increases in salaries, saying, “I don’t think we should be seeking raises to our salaries – it sends the wrong message. We have a serious budget deliberation, and we have to develop a disciplined, spare approach to budgeting – including our own salaries.” He said aldermanic salaries in several Chicago-area communities are much less than those of Evanston aldermen.
Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, said she had planned to vote against the salary increases but reconsidered, because the additional money could attract a larger candidate pool for upcoming elections. “The raise is important to maintaining a diverse City Council,” she said.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she agreed with Ald. Tisdahl and had changed her mind about voting against the raise. She said for her first years on the Council “all the money went toward childcare, and that wasn’t even enough.” She said she had recently learned that Oak Park had only retirees on its City Council and if Evanston could attract “young people with families to be on the Council, it would help with diverse perspectives.”
Several aldermen noted that the aldermanic salary – increased for next term to $12,000 from $10,000 per year, plus medical benefits – was an “honorarium” or a “symbol” and did not represent the amount of work required to be an alderman. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, “While it is a stipend, it in no way reflects compensation. … [The amount] is symbolic, and I believe that $12,000 per year is the best the community can do for excellent aldermanic service.”
Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said he plans not to stand for re-election but added, “There’s been no raise for eight years. We need good people up here.”
During citizen comment, Junad Rizki said he objected to the salaries as recommended by the compensation committee because those recommendations did not include the medical benefits available to elected City, but not Township, officials. He said information provided by the City showed that PPO benefits cost the City $503.91 per month for an individual (with a $14-per-month co-payment) and $1,404 per month for a family (with a $37-per-month co-payment). “[Taking health insurance into account, some of] these salaries are closer to $30,000 than to $12,000,” he said.
The other new salaries as approved by City Council, effective May, 2009, are as follows:
Mayor: $19,000/year, plus medical benefits
Alderman: $12,000/year, plus medical benefits
Township Supervisor: $13,400/year
Township Assessor: $8,000/year
The committee’s report to the City Council said, “We carefully considered the current salary structure and took into account the difficulties that the market is currently experiencing. .. [W]e realize that the budget is strained and that all expenditures must be carefully considered.”
About the part-time positions the committee report said, “It is the feeling of the committee that the individuals holding these positions give the citizens more than part-time effort.” In recommending the increase for the City Clerk’s position, the committee report said, “We understand some of [the Clerk’s] duties have been eliminated and wondered whether the position has been evaluated recently. We also understand that any change in that position would be a slow process and that the officeholder should not be penalized [while the changes are being made].”
The City code requires that the Mayor appoint a compensation committee every four years and that the committee make recommendations about elected officials’ compensation 200 days before the next regularly scheduled municipal election – April 7, 2009, for Evanston.