Evanston city employees have seen wage increases of 2.5 percent or more annually in recent years, while the earnings of Evanston residents have generally declined.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that the income of males working full-time, year-round in Evanston fell 3.45 percent between 2010 and 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.

Females working full-time, year-round did slightly better, losing only 1.24 percent — although the median wage for men, of $68,381 in 2015, was still substantially higher than the $52,381 median earned by women.

The city is currently negotiating new labor contracts with three of its four unions to replace deals that expired at the end of 2016.

The firefighters expired three-year contract contained pay hikes of 2.5 percent each year.

The police officers expired contract contained annual hikes of 3 percent, 2.7 percent and 2.7 percent.

And the expired AFSCME contract contained pay hikes of 2.6 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.4 percent.

The city’s three-year agreement with the police sergeants continues through this year, with pay hikes of 2.7 percent, 2.7 percent and 2.5 percent.

As aldermen meet tonight to discuss what to do about a projected $4.3 million revenue shortfall for this year, one of the items under consideration is to make a proposed 2.75 percent increase in city employee wages for this year that has been part of the union contract negotiations retroactive only to July 1 rather than Jan. 1.

Related story

City plans hiring freeze (7/22/176)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Future wage growth needs to slow

    I support the proposal to make the recent wage increase effective July 1, 2017 and NOT January 1, 2017. The wage growth realized by city employees along with growing expense of providing their benefit package has diverged significantly and for a long period of time relative to the private sector.

    In order to provide equity and try to make Evanston a more livable (i.e. affordable) community, wage growth should slow down for munipical employees. When and if the private sector starts to realize wage growth in the 3-4% range, then public sector wages can resume to increase at that rate. Remember, in Evanston around 40-45% of students are eligible for free and subsidized lunches and families with limited means are getting squeezed.

    1. Wage growth comparison
      Truthfully, the way this article was written really irritated me. It definitely presented certain facts to manipulate the reader, but to me, it was not an honest comparison. This average (mean? median? mode?) depicts the salary trend all kinds of jobs, from fast food to executive, and in my opinion, it’s not a good comparison to determine the salaries of our police and firemen. For example, if more restaurants opened employing minimum wage workers during the stated time period, then the overall average salary for all Evanston employees would go down. Should those jobs determine the salary of our public safety workers? I would be far more interested in seeing a comparison of the salaries of neighboring communities for their police and fire employees. To me, even though your statistics may be accurate, your article is not objective reporting. It definitely smells of bias.

      1. Missed the point

        The point of the article was to attempt to assess the ability of Evanston residents to pay ever-increasing salaries for public employees.

        Evanston’s non-municipal workforce includes many people who have highly skilled jobs. Nor are all city employees highly skilled.

        But the Census Bureau data suggests that what municipal employees earn here is increasingly out of line with the ability of residents to pay.

        If other communities, as you suggest, continue to pay their public employees more and more, perhaps to remain competitive without driving moderate income residents out of town with an unbearable level of taxes, we will simply need to get by with fewer public employees.

        If city workers don’t believe in shared sacrifice, we may have to sacrifice some of their jobs.

        Illuminating that issue is not bias, it’s just facing up to reality.

        — Bill

        1. With all due respect, I
          With all due respect, I understood your point; what I question is the choice of that single graphic to make it. The graphic includes the median income of all full-time time workers – an average that can be easily skewed by adding more minimum wage workers to the bottom of the work force. No information is given whether or not these workers live on their own or with families as supplementary incomes. To me, the median household income of property owners would be more relevant, since they are the ones paying the taxes that support our public safety workers. Of course, even then, one could counter that argument by saying the property taxes are passed off to renters in the form of rent increases, which is a valid point. I see economics as more of a web than a straight line of a single cause and effect; I feel that building a case by using a single graphic to represent a complex problem is misleading.

          Also, I do want to point out that my specific concern was the salary increases for police and firemen; I did not mention other municipal workers. I don’t think a 2.7% raise for public safety workers is outrageous. Now for MY bias, which I freely admit to: I believe that as a society we undervalue the contributions made by the police, firemen, and those in the military. You mentioned shared sacrifice. What more could these people sacrifice than laying their lives on the line for the rest of us every day? Where would we be without them? They are worth every penny of that raise and more.

          I do NOT have any policemen, firemen, nor active servicemen in my family; this is just the way I see it. Our community has to find a way to compensate them, not only because we may lose them to competing communities who pay more, but because it is right. (and before I open another can of worms- yes, I DO have huge issues with racial profiling and incidents of violence against minorities, especially since my family is a minority family, but I will not lump all police into that category.)

          I think we will have to agree to disagree on this issue. I do believe that we benefit from hearing all viewpoints. I just wanted to point out why I don’t agree with yours as presented.

          1. Let’s check the data

            You offered no evidence to suggest that the composition of the Evanston-resident workforce has shifted dramatically toward burger flippers this decade.

            In fact, were you to look at the census data linked from the story, you’d see that the percentage of “Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food service” workers among Evanston residents was 7.7 percent in in 2010 and in 2015.

            The work done by all city employees is important — not just that performed by public safety employees. And we presumably pay them all based on what it costs to find someone with the appropriate skill set in a competitive marketplace.

            I don’t think it’s reasonable to conclude that, because of the type of work they do, certain employees should be exempt from the economic constraints that face the rest of us.

            — Bill

      2. Different perspectives are needed – that’s the point
        Prior salary negotiations seem to routinely, year in and year out, call for 3-4% salary increases.
        Just go to the city of Evanston website and you can crunch the numbers.

        The salary increases are in addition to the benefits like healthcare, pensions etc that are provided to public employees.
        And those are important benefits that should be provided.

        Police, Fire and other city employees, and you can expand the discussion to include teachers, salary comparisons should be multidimensional.
        Comparing salaries and benefits with neighboring communities is appropriate.
        But also comparing salary and benefit compensation with the rest of our community is also appropriate and very relevant.

        You can google Cook County Median Household Income and look at its growth over the last decade and you can do the same for City of Evanston.
        At some point, and this is where the public and Alderman need to weigh in, people need to ask the question, what is a fair and appropriate wage?

        There isn’t any one right answer to this question and different people may have different perspectives and opinions.

        But the point is, we need the facts and we need to have the discussion. And it should be done in the public to advance disclosure and transparency, and confidence that this is being done appropriately. The budgets for all public entities mostly comprised of compensation related costs.

    2. Cost of living pay hikes

      The concerned D65 parent is using a false equivalency in his/her argument against cost of living pay raises for most of the cities staff. Why coorelate private sector success or failure to public sector salaries. Public sector employees don’t receive the rewards of a hot economy by choice. Why should they be punished during an economic slowdown?

        1. I did….

          Let’s narrow the focus to Evanstin employees. Btw… On another note, Illinois has more elected officials than any other state in the union. What’s up with that!

      1. Significantly more than cost of living

        I never said public sector employees shoud be punished during an economic slowdown. And by the way many of my direct and extended family have been, or are currently employed in the public sector. I have a deep appreciation and respect for their and other service by public employees.

        However, this experience has also opened my eyes into some of the vagaries of the system of public employees and this is what i’m trying to bring attention to so that others can engage in an open and frank conversation.

        I just went back to the City’s website and calculated that the average police and fire salary increase for the last 5 and 8 year period was about 4-5% per year. And that’s before their benefits. 4-5% per year starts to add up and now the average salary for both police and fire is over $90,000 and that’s relative to the median household income in Evanston is almost $70,000. Median household income in Evanston and Cook County has been increasing only about 1% during these periods.

        The average police and fireman who retires will have a pension worth over $1,000,000.

        And then you have the most recent police chief who retired from Evanston and is collecting his $100,000+ annual pension and is Police Chief in Park Ridge earning over $100,000 and the 2 most recent Fire Chiefs in Evanston who retired and one is in Winnetka and the other works for Northwestern University with similar financial conditions, collecting their pensions and earning a salary and accumulating a 2nd pension. 

        And people wonder why our taxes are so high, and many families continue to struggle financially?

        I question the equity and fairness of this situation and would like to see an open and balanced discussion about these issues.

        1. Very good post.
          Very good post.

          Simply put, when people truly wake up to the fact their tax burden is increasing +33% (and more with the soda tax?), without any corresponding and meaningful adjustment to the cost structure underlying the city’s/county’s/state’s fiscal challenges, they will realize they are being taken.

          This will result in a vote with their pocketbooks (in the form of less charitable giving), and a vote with their feet in the form of leaving the state and/or retiring elsewhere.

          Simply increasing the tax burden without change to the cost structure is an unbalanced and disingenuous activity.

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