Evanston aldermen voted Monday to give the next City Council a 23 percent increase in cash compensation, but they rejected a plan to equalize the total value of all compensation they receive from the city.
The proposal they rejected came from Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who noted that, depending on the health coverage alderman receive from the city, each alderman’s compensation next year would range from a low of $15,990 to a high of $34,139.76.
Assuming she’s re-elected, Rainey, who is single but receives health coverage from the city, would get under the plan approved by the Rules Committee Monday, an amount toward the low end of that range — $22,590.
A majority of aldermen also cover their families under the city’s health plan and as a result receive considerably more total compensation.
Rainey’s proposal to equalize total compensation at the highest amount any alderman now receives would have added nearly $70,000 to the $27,000 added cost of the compensation plan that the aldermen ultimately adopted.
Being an alderman in Evanston is considered a part-time job, and few part-time positions in most businesses include health coverage.
City staff found that in most other metro-area communities surveyed part-time elected officials don’t receive health benefits. But in Evanston aldermen have received that benefit for many years.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, defended the current system, suggesting that it is fair to have the city simply meet an alderman’s need for health insurance. “That’s the way to make this the most equitable in my mind,” Fiske said.
Judy Fiske and Peter Braithwaite.
And Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, who now receives the largest health benefit from the city, complained to Rainey that her plan “would mean you’d end up with more spendable money.”
Tendam said the insurance “represents a benefit provided to us for being on the council and working as hard as we do.”
“It has nothing to do with the actual value of our service,” he added.
In response to a question from Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz noted that regular city employees who decline to take the city’s health coverage are given a cash benefit of $150 a month, small portion of what the city saves from not having to provide their coverage.
Seeing that she lacked the votes to win adoption of her original plan, Rainey amended it to propose that aldermen who receive less health coverage get a $5,000 additional annual stipend from the city.
That proposal failed 5-3.
She later proposed that in addition to the one-time 23 percent cash pay hike recommended by the Compensation Committee appointed by the mayor, aldermen get an additional 5 percent raise in each subsequent year of their term.
She said it was “crazy” not to have additional pay hikes. “Nobody has to wait four years for an increase,” she said.
That proposal failed for the lack of a second.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, moved to accept the committee’s pay hike recommendation, and that was approved on a 5-3 vote.
The aldermen also voted to approve pay hikes for the mayor and city clerk as recommended by the compensation committee.
Monday’s action by the council’s Rules Committee still requires confirmation at a regular City Council meeting. The council’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 15.
Under state law each City Council, toward the end of its four-year term, must set the compensation level for the next City Council that will take office the following year.
Aldermen defer action on pay hikes (7/12/16)
Rainey urges revamping aldermanic pay (6/28/16)
Panel eyes doubling aldermanic pay (4/5/16)