Evanston aldermen, scheduled to vote soon on giving themselves a pay raise, already cost taxpayers far more than the equivalent elected officials in nearby towns of similar size.

An Evanston Now analysis of budgets for Evanston, Skokie and Arlington Heights shows that an alderman here costs taxpayers nearly eight times as much as a village trustee in Arlington Heights and roughtly two-and-a-half times more than a trustee in Skokie.

And, since Evanston has nine aldermen, compared to eight trustees in Arlington Heights and six in Skokie, the total tab is evening higher.

The three towns are roughly the same size — with Evanston and Arlington Heights almost equal at 74,486 and 75,101 people respectively. Skokie’s population of 64,784 is about 13 percent less than that of the other two.

An Evanston alderman now make $12,000 a year, and gets health insurance benefits that cost the city an average of more than 10,000 a year.

And the elected officials are the only part-time city employees who qualify for health insurance coverage, according to the chair of the Mayoral Compensation Committee, Suzanne Calder.

But Calder says two of the aldermen don’t take the city’s health insurance coverage.

Arlington Heights and Skokie don’t provide health insurance benefits for their elected officials, and they also pay their trustees less.

Skokie trustees make $8,760 a year, while Arlington Height’s trustees are paid just $2,800 a year.

The picture is somewhat different for each town’s mayor.

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl is paid $18,000 a year, but, according to Calder, declines the city’s health insurance coverage.

Skokie mayor George Van Dusen is paid substantially more — $31,150.

But Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder, although entitled to pay of $8,500, “is not currently accepting compensation” according to the village’s budget documents.

Neither of the othe mayors are eligible for health insurance coverage from their towns.

Evanston aldermen could vote as early as next Monday on whether to adopt the Compensaton Committee’s recommendation that they give a 2 percent per year salary increase in each of the next four years to the officials who will be elected when Evanston voters go to the polls next April.

Four years ago, when the compensation committee recommended a 20 percent pay hike for Evanston aldermen over four years in 5 percent annual increments, the aldermen voted to take the entire 20 percent increase immediately.

Related documents

Evanston city budget 2012 (.pdf)

Arlington Heights village budget FY2013 (.pdf)

Skokie propose village budget FY2013 (.pdf)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Aldermanic pay

    Without knowing the comparison in expectations and city management style, it's hard to know if it is equitable.

    1. Government style

      All three communities use the council/manager form of government in which a full-time city manager is the chief executive officer of the government.

      The aldermen or trustees set policy but have no administrative responsibilities.

      The mayor is the ceremonial head of government in each community. But in each the mayor does have an additional role as the local liquor commissioner.

      — Bill

  2. EvNow doing the journalist’s job

    This kind of reporting is exactly what we should expect of journalism – finding out information to build an informed public and, I hope, readership. Thanks.

  3. Limit when they can give themselves a raise

    This is excellent work by EvanstonNow. It made me do a little research and I found this on the city's web site. It's a section called "Mayor's Compensation Committee" and it states, "The City Code, section 1-5-9, provides that the Aldermanic compensation structure shall be reviewed by a nonaldermanic committee every 4 years… The committe [sic] is required to submit a report and recommendation to the City Council by July 23, 2012." How about suggesting to this committee that the city code be changed to require any council vote on compensation to be held only 30 days or less before an aldermanic election?

    1. State law on compensation

      Interesting idea … but there's a state law that requires any change in compensation for the next City Council be decided at least 180 days before the new council's term of office begins.

      See a memo from the city attorney on the subject.

      — Bill

      1. Too bad, but……
        I wonder if Evanston could be granted an exemption to this law and if the Mayor’s Committee would have the courage to ask for one. My guess is no and no.

  4. I personally know of some

    I personally know of some part-time city employees whose regular weekly hours are a few hours shy of full-time hours or consistently work full-time hours (receiving overtime for hours above their part-time schedule) that don't receive health insurance benefits. I'm talking long-term permanent city employees, not seasonal workers . I recognize that alderman serve on various committees within city government in addition to their aldermanic responsibilities, however there is no justification for billing taxpayers for their health insurance if we don't pay health insurance benefits for any other part-time employee. 

    1. I agree 100%

      This is has been my issue along,  Council members and the Mayor ARE NOT FULL TIME Employees! Why are they getting special treatment?

      While some might say they are entitled, given the misamanagement and lack of knowledge continual display by them, I see no reason for any additional compensation. Also as one member pointed out there are going to be more layoffs in the next budget cycle, their medical benefits equal one city employee,

      I bet Monday night if this is on the agenda not one of them will speak to it, last time ( 4 years ago )when I spoke not one of them bother to respond,

      Given the city's VERY POOR finanical picture we should be talking about eliminating benefits and cutting their salaries.

      1. Replies by aldermen to public comments

        Ponzi says:

        "I bet Monday night if this is on the agenda not one of them will speak to it, last time ( 4 years ago )when I spoke not one of them bother to respond"

        Are aldermen permitted to respond to comments made during the citizens' comments part of the meeting?  

        In the well written Viewpoint column in Evanston Now, April 19 2012, Bill Smith wrote:

         "Furthermore, the current rules — which bar aldermen from responding to citizen comments — preclude serious discussion of relevant off-agenda items when members of the public do raise them."

        Perhaps this rule should be revised, as the column argues, to allow aldermen to respond to the many outrageous  comments made by the 'regulars' during citizen comments.    (Or maybe  it is better to just ignore the 'regulars', since they just repeat the same nonsense every week and aren't listening anyway.)

        However, until the rules are revised, it is outrageous for Ponzi to criticize council members for not responding to his comments.  

        As for Ponzi's bet:  "I bet Monday night if this is on the agenda not one of them will speak to it," I would gladly take that bet. If an item is on the agenda, then we can be almost certain that some council member will speak to it – unless it is removed from the agenda or postponed to a later meeting.  Councilmen don't just put things on the agenda if they don't plan to speak about them.





        1. Council compensation is on the agenda tonight

          Whats you position it appears you want to give your friends more money.  Your comments are tangential to the topic at hand.  

          Let me clarify my point, four years ago this was on the agenda, and none of them spoke to the fact they were getting excessive medical benefits.

          By the way while council members can not directly comment during citizen comment they and the mayor control the entire meeting they have plenty of oppurtunities to comment on anything a citizen saids, at other points in the meeting.  Also they have commented to my citizens comments at call of the wards and during discussions of the item. 

          All this is likely to be a mute point a few years down the road if the city does bankrupt, their medical benefits will be elminated along with their jobs.( I found it interesting TIF revenues drop by over one million dollars and Wally is going to borrow against a new TIF that was a bust for years! This is fiscally responsible?)

  5. Cut size of council—again

    Years ago [15?] the Council was cut in half (?).  Time to do so again.

    As it is each Council member represents only a fraction of the number of residents that even Chicago with all its politics does.  We should at least cut our Council and staffs by half.

    1. What would that cost.

      In Chicago, the council members are part-time. They meet once a month, not once a week. The get $ 100,000 in salary, plus another $ 20,000 (I think) for each committee they sit on. Most committees meet once a month for less than an hour. They get $70,000 for regular expenses, plus extra for each committee they sit on. The city pays for office space, office expenses, and 3 full-time aids. They do not need to account for their $ 70,000 in expenses. They get free health insurance. Some council members get free 24/7 security guards. Plus, they get fully expensed fact finding trips for themselves and their spouses/partner. Favorite places include Hawaii, Florida, and Las Vegas, Europe, Africa, and South America.

      Did I say that they are part-time and meet one time per month.

      I am a big critic when our city council does something stupid but I think our city council is the right size. Worthless council members can get voted out of office. Good ones will get voted back in.

      So you want to cut our 9 member council in half.

      Are you in favor of giving them the same salary and benefits as Chicago's city council?

      Are you going to be responsible for the 5th city council member's extra medical bills when he/she is cut in half?

      Does Evanston really want to look like Chicago?


      1. The Chicago comparison

        I'm not saying Chicago Aldermen should receive $100,000 or not, but even though the position is defined as "part-time" and even though the City Council may only meet once a month — in reality, for most Chicago Aldermen it is a full time job. 

        Good or bad, necessary or not, Chicago Aldermen act as mini-Mayors of their ward and are involved in everything from garbage pick-up to zoning matters.

        Also, saying "some council members get free 24/7 security guards" is not really true — only one does.  Don't get me wrong, it is a complete waste and abuse of power, and he is being raked over the coals for it by the media and others, but it is only one, not some.

  6. Penny Wise Pound Foolish-Pay the Alderman more $$$

    Evanston Alderman oversee a $250 million budget. The work they do and the decisions they make are very important to the community.

    The most important issue is how do we attract the most qualified and competent City Council that will consistently, and on average make the best decisions which are in the long term interests of the community.

    While i do not think that just money makes the difference, the total compensation currently offered in Evanston of $22,000 isn't even close to provided adequate compensation for someone who is dedicated, and puts in the time and effort to do a great job in this important role. You get what you pay for.

    I'd suggest that other larger communities are also undercompensating their local leaders, Skokie and Arlington Heights, included. I'm not aware of too many well run cities in Illinois or in the country for that matter. Maybe, just maybe there is a reason for this situation.

    You can call this a "part time" job, but in the 20+ years I've lived in Evanston, the committed Alderman who do an outstanding job (and yes there have been several) put in many hours, attend many meetings and do many extra things for Evanston. In my opinion, they should be paid for their work. There are also many Alderman who aren't as committed and who make ill informed and poor decisions. They should be voted out of office. That's how our democracy works.

    Some posters have commented that they know "part time employees in Evanston who don't receive health care." While that's true, I'd add they're not in charge of a $250mm budget. They don't attend meetings until late hours in the evening and they don't have to take phone calls and e-mails from constituents at all hours of the day and on weekends.

    The current compensation structure limits and skews the potential pool of candidates to the wealthy and or retired. Fortunately, some of the current Alderman are able to balance work, family and serve the city. The middle/lower class find it increasingly difficult to run. Do we want to be governed by wealthy elites?

    I am also in favor of term limits since the role of an Alderman (and other politicians) should not be a career, but an opportunity to serve our community, state or nation.

    The size of City Council is up for discussion, but i'd suggest that quality should trump quantity.

    Being an Alderman is a serious responsibility and we need to compensate them for their work.

    1. I knew it

      And it took TP only 7 paragraphs to get to his real point –

      Hatred for the affluent, and demonization of success in this country.

      Thanks for towing your party's line….


  7. Vote no and show solidarity with other city and school employees

    In these economic times, I think it would be a slap in the face to all the other city employees and school employees (yes different piece of the tax pie) if the aldermen voted themselves a raise.

     The teachers are struggling to come to a contract due to lack of money and the city employees are constantly being threatened with cuts and privitization of services. 

    All of these people also work long hours and contribute to the city.   This is not the time for any pay raises, especially for people who are essentially in advising positions to a well paid city manager, who truly runs the budget.

  8. How many and how big ?

    The July 28 Economist has an article "Here's How to Do It."

    Sandy Springs Georgia, population 100,000, has seven full-time employees not counting state mandated fire and police.  They found most services can be contracted out. Government meetings can be held in a bland office building.  Employees are given 401(k) plans. No long term liabilities. They have a rainly day fund, 1/5 budget is spent on capital projects.

    The city is already in sound financial health.

    Meanwhile Evanston is well to say the least in shakey territory.

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