With all the discussion about government spending and budget trimming, Sun-Times Media decided to take a look at what local elected officials make and how their salaries compare to others in surrounding communities.
It would be expected that leaders in Aurora, Naperville and Elgin, the state’s second, fifth and eighth most populous cities respectively, make much more than those in the smaller villages and towns.
But that’s not necessarily the case.
But no matter what the compensation, many officials say that the money is not the reason they do what they do.
“This all takes time away from their families and, at times, their jobs,” said Batavia Village Administrator Bill McGrath. “Trust me, there is no one in it for the money. It is about community commitment.”
The compensation levels for that commitment varies.
Despite the fact Elgin has more than 110,000 residents, Mayor David Kaptain makes $15,000 a year, less than the Campton Hills village president, who earns $19,225 to lead the far smaller community of 11,000. And the Elburn village president gets a base salary only $2,000 less than Elgin’s mayor, even though Elburn’s population is 5,620.
Kaptain also makes less than the mayor of St. Charles — population, 33,286 — who receives $17,500 a year. He also makes about half of what George Pradel earns as mayor of Naperville, population 143,000.
On the other end of the spectrum, Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner brings in around $120,000 running the city of almost 200,000.
The difference is that Naperville and Elgin, as well as almost all other surrounding communities, operate under a council-manager governmental model, which usually translates to lower pay for the mayor (or village president) because the post is part-time and more duties are covered by a hired city administrator.
Aurora, on the other hand, has a strong-mayor form of government, like Chicago, where the mayor’s position is full-time and provides much higher compensation.
Still, no matter what style of government, salaries can vary greatly, even among city council members/village trustees.
In Aurora, aldermen bring home $16,900 a year with another $75 per diem for each committee meeting attended; Naperville council members make $12,500; while Elgin council members earning $10,000 annually.
The differences in the smaller communities vary widely.
For example, the mayoral salaries in the tiny village of Millbrook, population 335, the mayor receives an annual salary of $1,200; the compensation for the mayor of Newark, a village three times larger.
In Kaneville, population 489, the mayor receives $4,800 annually; which is only $1,200 less than the Village of Oswego president, who serves a much larger town and more vibrant municipality of 30,355. In the tiny village of Millbrook, population 335, and in Newark, a village about three times larger the mayoral compensation
Or compare North Aurora, population 16,700, to Campton Hills, with slightly more than 11,000 residents. Yet that village president earns $19,225, compared to North Aurora’s village president bringing in $10,200.
On the other hand, North Aurora trustees made $6,600, while Campton Hills trustees receive $2,250.
On a smaller scale, the village president of Gilberts, population 7,000, earns $6,000; while the Hampshire village president, population, 5,700, receives $9,500.
How they get paid
In Aurora, the salary increases every two years, set by aldermen four years in advance. The last increase, said Alderman at large Robert O’Connor, was about 3 percent, and it is around that every two years.
By voting on an increase four years in advance, it only applies to aldermen who are elected four years into the future or beyond. Elected officials can’t raise their own pay, he said.
Many communities pay these elected officials either monthly or bi-weekly. Some however, pay for attendance at each meeting that is subject to the provisions of the Open Meeting Act.
In South Elgin, for example, the village president makes $300 per meeting; while trustees make $150 for each meeting.
In East Dundee, trustees receive $75 per meeting; with the board president getting $100 per meeting. In West Dundee, trustees receive $125 per meeting; village president, $150.
In Batavia, with a population of 25,000, aldermen are paid $200 per meeting. Mayor Jeff Schielke, however, is paid $26.05 per hour. But that pay can’t exceed $2,605 per month or $31,260 annually, according to City Administrator Bill McGrath.
Also, most mayors/village presidents, whether it’s a larger city like Aurora, a mid-size town like Oswego; or a small village like Elburn, get an additional $1,000 from the state to serve as liquor control commissioner.
Although some municipalities, such as Elgin, Naperville and Aurora offer health insurance to council members through their city’s insurance plan, most smaller towns do not provide that option or offer a pension.
In November 2012, the Yorkville council passed a measure phasing out health insurance. In Aurora, O’Connor said aldermen discussed dropping health insurance, but decided against it.
“I think the attitude is that we have all worked together to keep insurance costs down,” he said. “They have been dramatically reduced over the past several years.”
In Naperville, council members don’t itemize hours worked; however, those who wish to qualify for participation in the state pension system, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, must sign an affidavit stating that they devote no fewer than 1,000 hours annually to the part-time position.
Some officials receive added benefits. For example, Aurora and Naperville mayors get the use of a city car. And members of Elgin’s council receive discounted memberships to the fitness center at The Centre downtown.
They can also golf for free if the round is related to city business, said Kaptain, Elgin’s mayor. In addition, the city will pick up the tab to have a council member attended a civic function.
Although they do not receive a pension, Kaptain says members receive a cell phone, a laptop computer, office supplies and stationery.”
Many of these positions don’t come with a job description stipulating the duties and expectations. Showing up for meetings is the main role of these elected officials. And it is usually the only one required.
Still, the job hardly stops there.
In addition to the two council meetings each month and serving on the city’s liquor commission, Kaptain said his job as mayor includes “attendance at ribbon cuttings, fund-raisers, annual dinners, and other events that residents request a council member to attend.
“These are voluntary,” he noted. “Some council members attend a good number per year, while others attend almost none.”
He says he also believes the mayor should share responsibilities with council members and ask them to represent him at functions he can’t attend or serve on committees for the chamber, Housing Authority and other groups.
In East Dundee, board members are required to attend the three and sometimes four meetings per month, said Heather Maieritschm, East Dundee deputy village administrator. Each board member also sits on two village committees, such as public safety or finance. They are also encouraged to attend community events.
In West Dundee, there are also opportunities for board members to sit on committees and take part in community events, said Executive Secretary Kim Tibbetts. For example, Village President Chris Nelson and Trustee Tom, who is also a Community Development liaison, are serving on the Downtown Redevelopment Task Force.
Theresa Sperling, Village of Montgomery trustee, says residents expect elected officials, at a minimum, to put in the hours for three meetings per month, plus the reading and research time.
“It is up to the individual as to how much time they put in and if they attend other events,” she added. “I personally try to attend as many events as possible. Based on the last six months and the approximately 30 events I have attended, I would estimate I typically put in eight to 10 hours per week. Obviously when we have Village events, those hours increase. For example, all the trustees work the entire weekend of Montgomery Fest.”
Elected officials must always be ready to respond to calls from constituents, pointed out Oswego Administrator Steve Jones. Plus, it’s “also time-consuming to thoroughly read the agenda packets and prepare for Village Board meetings.”
Batavia City Administrator Bill McGrath agrees, adding that it can be difficult placing a value on what elected officials do for a municipality.
McGrath said Mayor Jeff Schielke, for example, attends all of the Eagle Scout ceremonies that he is aware of or is invited to, as a way to show that the community recognizes their efforts.
“Taking the time out to make a personal appearance is one of those actions that maintain the small town values of Batavia…” McGrath said. “The time he spends in Chicago and elsewhere participating in the Council of Mayors and other groups enable us to be well-informed as to trends in the legislature and business, and enables Batavia to have a presence in regional discussions.”
While each elected official has different interests, he continued, “on the whole, I see people believing that they should ‘take a turn’ as an adult in the community to take some responsibility and make it good for those who live and/or do business here now and for those coming after.”
By Staff writers Mike Danahey, Steve Lord, Susan Carlman, Kalyn Belsha and Denise Crosby; freelancers Linda Girardi, Janelle Walker and Erin Sauder
Some statistics from Metro West Council of Government Elected Officials Compensation Survey Report, compiled October 2013 by the Village of Gilberts