Evanston aldermen are scheduled tonight to discuss what to pay city officials who will be elected in next April’s municipal election.

The Compensation Committee appointed to advise the City Council on the issue had recommended last spring a dramatic reform to the cost to taxpayers of the officials’ health care coverage.

It would have limited their compensation to the value of an individual health plan, rather than full family coverage, with the option for officials to pick up the cost of family coverage out of their own pockets if they chose.

But aldermen appeared disinclined to go down that route when the committee’s report was submitted in June and instead referred the compensation issue to the Rules Committee, which is meeting tonight.

For tonight’s meeting city staff has prepared a proposal that calls for no cash pay hike in the first two years of the new term of office, followed by increases of 2.5% and 3% in the third and fourth years.

It would make no change in the existing health insurance benefit.

During the Compensation Committee’s debate, Alderman Ann Rainey, the only single person on the Council, had argued in favor of the health coverage reform saying, “Compensation shouldn’t be about insurance. You shouldn’t get more for being an alderman if you have a family of four.”

Depending on whether they opt for health coverage, and whether they sign up for an individual or family plan, health coverage can more than double the total cost of an individual alderman’s compensation.

Several aldermen hold other part or full-time jobs that may offer health coverage, and they may qualify for coverage under a partner’s employer benefits.

But because the city’s health plans require a lower employee contribution than most private-sector plans, most aldermen who could qualify for other plans still opt to take the taxpayer-funded coverage.

All of the city’s elected positions, except that of the City Clerk, are considered part-time positions.

Based on compensation data going back to 1977 compiled by city staff, it appears that in terms of cash compensation aldermen have fared quite well against the rate of inflation during that time, while increases for the mayor and city clerk have stayed closer to the rate of inflation.

Under state law each City Council is required to set the pay for the officials to be chosen in the next election.

The Rule Committee meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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