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Panel: Aldermen should pay more for health benefits

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The committee appointed to advise the City Council on what elected officials should make after the next election is recommending they pay more for health insurance, but get a 2 percent annual pay hike.

The Mayor's Compensation Committee voted unanimously this evening to recommend that aldermen and other elected officials pay as much for health insurance coverage as full-time city employees who don't have union representation do.

The aldermen now pay only a modest amount for their coverage, and Committee Chair Suzanne Calder said other part-time city employees receive no health coverage from the city at all.

The aldermen and mayor are considered part-time employees.

Non-represented full-time city employees now pay between $88 and $225.50 per month for their health coverage, depending on the plan they choose and whether it covers just the employee or the worker's family as well.

The health insurance benefit has been estimated to cost the city as much as $10,000 per elected official.

Calder says Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Aldermen Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, are the only members of the City Council who don't opt to take the city-funded health insurance coverage.

The aldermen now make $12,000 a year. They can't raise their pay during their term of office, but the aldermen in office now set the pay rate for the City Council that will be seated after next April's election.

Four years ago the council voted to raise the aldermanic pay rate by 20 percent immediately, though the compensation committee appointed that year had recommended that the increase be phased in with four annual increments.

The city's human resources director, Cheryl Chukwa, told the committee that raises for non-union city workers have ranged from zero to four percent over the last four years, and in each of the last two years they've had three unpaid furlough days.

The history of recent pay raises for other city workers seemed to drive the committee's conclusion that the aldermen should get 2 percent raises in each of the next four years.

But one committee member, Tim Pareti, argued that they should take a $500 pay cut, because of what he argued was the outsized amount of their pay boost last time.

The panel also recommended the same percentage increases and change in health insurance payments for the other elected officials besides the aldermen, including the mayor, the city clerk and the township supervisor and assessor.

The committee's report also urged that the next compensation committee, to be appointed in 2016, be named early enough to start its work sooner, perhaps in April or May rather than in July, so it would have time to investigate issues more thoroughly.

In addition the committee said a full evaluation of the position of the city clerk "is overdue" to determine whether it should be considered a full-time or part-time job.

Calder said that while the current city clerk, Rodney Greene, works full time, some previous Evanston city clerks have only worked three days a week.

The aldermen are scheduled to set the pay rate for the next City Council by this September.

Last time around only Alderman Edmund Moran, who'd announced he wasn't running for re-election, voted against the pay increase, saying Evanston aldermen were already making about twice as much as elected officials in similar communities.


Update 3:40 p.m. 7/17/12: In response to a question from Evanston Now about exactly what the aldermen now pay for health insurance, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says they're already paying the same amount as non-represented, full-time city employees.

We've asked additional information about when that change took place and why the compensation committee apparently wasn't aware of it.


Related stories

Alderman calls pay critics 'hateful' (Sept. 29, 2008)

Aldermen take bigger pay hike (Sept,. 23, 2008)

Panel: Give aldermen 20% pay hike (Sept. 19, 2008)

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