A special committee appointed by the mayor is scheduled to consider Tuesday whether to recommend that aldermen should give a raise to members of the new City Council elected next year.

Under state law the current City Council has to set the pay rate for elected officials to be chosen next April at least six months before election day.

The four-member committee, at its first meeting on Feb. 23, asked city staff to prepare an analysis of what elected officials are paid in communities similar to Evanston. The committee said the review should consider “population size, style and size of government and socioeconomic parameters.”

To provide a simpler comparison, Evanston Now has looked at the two towns in Illinois closest to Evanston in population, and found that aldermen here come out far ahead on pay and benefits.

The average total compensation cost for the nine Evanston alderman is $24,648. The aldermen each make a base pay of $12,784. But they are offered health insurance and other benefits on top of that.

Those costs add between a bit under $1,000 and nearly $22,000 to the cost to taxpayers of an alderman, depending mainly on whether the alderman opts into the city health insurance program and whether the health plan covers just the alderman or the alderman’s family as well.

In Arlington Heights, which has a few hundred more residents than Evanston, the eight village trustees cost far less — on average $3,511 each in pay and fringe benefits.

Schaumburg, which has several hundred fewer residents than Evanston, gets by with just six trustees — but their total compensation averages $13,310 each.

Evanston’s mayor, whose pay scale will also be up for adjustment, costs taxpayers $20,525 a year. That’s less than half the $48,021 the village president makes in Schaumburg but more than twice the $9,211 cost of the village president in Arlington Heights.

The members of the Compensation Committee are Alvin Telser, an emeritus biology professor at Northwestern University; Sue Calder, director of Interfaith Action of Evanston and chair of the city’s Housing & Homelessness Commission; Todd Kihm, a building contractor who was among the people who sought appointment as 7th Ward alderman earlier this year, and Robin Simmons, who runs the entrepreneurship training program for Sunshine Enterprises in Evanston, which has received a grant from the city.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. What if it paid $75,000 a year?

    If we go by the old adage that "you get what you pay for", maybe we could get people to run for alderperson or mayor who would govern the city with a belief that it's a full time job (with good pay and benefits) and all they have to do to keep it is to keep their boss (the taxpayer) happy. I believe we could greatly expand a number of highly qualified people to at least consider running and that the cost ($75,000 @ 10 positions) is cheap if it gives us better and less costly government. Food for thought.

    1. Not A Bad Idea
      …. but maybe we don’t even need 9 wards. The town isn’t that large and we should easily be able to cut the number needed to 6 or even less. Instead of simply merging wards, we could redistrict and lay out more equitable groupings across both financial and cultural diversity. Every alderman should have a fair grouping of both in their Ward. This would be helpful to residents since they would need to take into account every type of resident in Evanston when making their decision on voting direction.

      1. Residents per alderman
        Evanston has a small fraction of resident per alderman that Chicago does—Evanston 1 per 9,000, Chicago 1 per 54,000 I think most would agree Chicago also has many more issues to deal with than Evanston does.
        Not only that but Evanston’s compensation for alderman are above other similar cities.
        We probably need fewer aldermen. We cut the number before, time to do so again.

    2. Getting what we pay for

      First off, I have slight hunch the present council members might queston your opinion—were already getting what we pay for—council member views and legislation clearly reflects the political landscape of Evanston—most incumbents are re-elected and in some cases run unopposed.

      Next, increasing council members pay to an exorbent full time salary of 75 grand a year by no means guarantees more effective or qualified candidates…Case in point, our current batch of reps in Congress have been plodding along at a 10% approval rating—lowest in US history since public polling has been in place…Base salary for members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year plus a mind boggling array of perks and pension plan—How's their representation been working out for us???

      Lastly, Evanston has historicaly been a city where elected council members are motivatd by civic duty and pride—financial compensation was not a factor—I'll assume most council members have day jobs which also has been the traditional norm—unless council member's finanncial situation doesnt require employment to get by…My father served two terms on the city council (70'-78'') and was paid a whopping $25.00 per meeting—one had to be present at the council meeting to get their 25 bucks—council meetings were held every monday night and rotinely lasted to 11:00pm and beyond—I'm not sure the city council even holds meetings every week anymore …Adjusted for inflation I think we can safely say this figure nowhere near compares to what council members presently receive—12 grand a year salary plus health care at 10 grand per alderman…

      Don Wilson is my alderman and has my respect—he's a good man and I'll stand by his quote—"I don't believe anybody does the job for the money"—Bravo Don!—lets keep Evanston's elected officials at present pay scale—it helps remind us whats most important here as previously stated—Civic Pride & Duty



  2. Pay more & restructure Alderman
    Being an Alderman is an important job and they should be compensated fairly.
    If an Alderman is doing their job appropriately, he/she is spending a lot of time fielding calls and inquiries from
    constituents and attending a lot of meetings. At the current pay scale what is the approximate compensation per hour?

    Increasing the compensation may also increase the talent pool and diversity of Alderman. The current system effectively is biased towards
    retirees who have extra time and wealthier residents who can afford to work for low pay. Alderman have important responsibilities
    and make decisions that impact everyone in our community. We should have a system that encourages broad participation and
    attracts the best and most diverse candidates. (p.s. who was the last Hispanic Alderman?)

    Secondly, the historic “ward” structure is archaic. We need Alderman who not only represent their “ward” but the entire City of Evanston.
    I’d suggest 4 distinct wards each represented by one Alderman, and 3 “at large” Alderman who are accountable to the entire city. Eliminate 2 positions. Evanston doesn’t need 9 Alderman given its population of 75,000 and less than 10 square miles in size.
    The “I’ll support your project if you suport my project” approach would be diminished, and more Alderman would be required to make decisions
    that are in the best interests of the entire city. Yes, this is wishful thinking.

    1. More than one needed ?
      As if there was not enough evidence of the Council not having a purpose, it was settled when the Council was voting on an issue and one alderman opposed the proposal but voted with the others so the vote would be unanimous. Talk about being pusillanimous. They just “go with the flow”—mostly pushing taxpayer money out the door and mostly to what they think are “winners” and their powerful voters.

    2. Is a desperate Mayor needed ?

      Why do we even have a Mayor if the Manager makes most of the decisions ?

      1. If someone wants to be called 'Mayor' for whatever reason, make it an unpaid ceremonial position–ribbon cuttings, ride in a car for parades, etc. and maybe if he/she wants something else to do, call the City Council Meettings to order.


      2. Have the Council elect one of their own to be 'Speaker of the Council' or some such title but still be just an alderman—i.e. one of the nine at least until we can get the size of the Council reduced. It works for Congress and Illinois Legislature, why not Evanston ?


  3. Who is requesting this?

    Is this a request by the mayor, by the council, or by legislative mandate? Exactly who is requesting the raise?

    1. Who?

      Hi Don,

      Well, the process is established by state law.

      If no action is taken by October, then the pay for the elected officials stays the same for the next four years.

      Hypothetically the committee also could recommend, and the council could adopt a reduction in pay … but you shouldn't hold your breath waiting for that.

      — Bill

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