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The City Council’s longest-serving member urged her colleagues Monday to completely reorganize how they’re paid — calling the current compensation scheme very inequitable.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that while all aldermen get the same base stipend, whether they opt to take health insurance from the city and what plan they choose makes a huge difference in their total compensation.

Aldermanic pay, based on a city compensation report. Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th ward, had not joined the council at the time the report was prepared.

Rainey suggested changing the pay plan so that aldermen received a larger cash amount — perhaps around $30,000 each — and then be allowed to use a portion of that money to buy into a city health plan if they chose. They also might instead choose to opt for a less expensive private health insurance plan.

Evanston is rare among local municipalities in offering health insurance coverage to its part-time elected officials, and its cash compensation to aldermen is also on the high end of the range for communities of similar size.

The advisory Compensation Committee appointed by the mayor is recommending a 23.1 percent increase in cash pay for the aldermen but no change in the health insurance program.

Cash compensation to aldermen stayed roughly in line with the rate of inflation from 1977 through 2000, but has substantially exceeded that rate since then.

Al Telsor, chair of the compensation committee, said its members had a wide range of views about a possible pay hike — ranging from limiting it to the rate of inflation to providing a boost of 50 percent or more — and ended up with a compromise somewhere in the middle.

He said the committee didn’t see a way to solve the disparity in total compensation when health insurance is added into the equation.

Given that the city requires only a 10 percent employee match for its health insurance coverage, its health insurance plans are more financially attractive than private-sector plans where the employee cost match might be 20 to 25 percent or more. So even aldermen with full-time jobs elsewhere that offer health coverage have a financial incentive choose the city’s coverage.

No other aldermen addressed the issue Rainey raised and the council voted to introduce the pay ordinance recommended by the compensation committee.

A final vote on the pay plan could come at the council’s July 11 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. The city should not be
    The city should not be offering healthcare to part-time employees, mayor and council men and women, at the same level as fulltime employees. Are other part-time or temporary employees offered healthcare? Other cities do not provide healthcare to part-time alderman. Why does Evanston give special treatment to some citizens or groups?

    Sorry Jane but it looks like a special council should be brought in to investigate Evanston Government.

    1. Regular part-time city
      Regular part-time city employees do not get health insurance nor do they have the option of buying into the city plan.

  2. Inadequate Representation Inadequate Pay
    How appalling the City Council should ask for a raise when the city is in discord. If you want a raise get out there and do the work to be acceptable of a raise. I wholeheartedly agree with the previous commenter, there is no way part time Councilmen should be receiving the benefits that equal to or greater than full time employees. You want a raise get out there with local law enforcement and get solutions to bring the violence under control. instead of sitting behind closed doors trying to figure ways to drain the finances of a already financially burden community and figuring ways to look more people up. WANT A RAISE DEAL WITH THE ISSUES.

  3. Vote out all incumbents

    This opens the door for challengers to run on a platform of promising to donate their alderman/mayoral pay to charity.

    These elected positions are part-time and as far as I'm concerned should be volunteer positions.

    Ann Rainey in 1991 said aldermen would be overhwlemed after Evanston voters in a tax revolt voted to pare down the City Council to 9 members from 18 members.

    `What you`re going to have on the City Council is women who don`t have to work and retired people,“ said Ald. Ann Rainey. “Nobody with a real job.“

    How many men are on the Council? How many aldermen are younger than 65 and have 'real jobs'? Seems Rainey was dead wrong on that prediction not to mention the subtle sexist remark. But she's a die hard Democrat and can get away with that kinda stuff.

    In 1991, Suzanne Calder, an establishment candidate and president of the Evanston League of Women Voters at the time, ran and lost the 2nd Ward aldermen race during the Evanston tax revolt. Calder is a member of this year's Compensation Committee. .

    You just know the Evanston Council will vote to give themselves this pay raise. Evanston taxpayers lost hunderds of thousands of dollares in recent bad loans to businesses thanks to our City Council.

    I say vote em all out of office! 

  4. Why Raise Council Pay?

    Why is the City Council considering raising its own package of salary and benefits?  Is increased compensation required to incent more people to seek to serve on the Council? It wouldn’t seem so, given the crowd that sought to replace Ald. Grover when she resigned recently. Have all other projects and programs been sufficiently funded, and money still remains, such that more compensation for aldermen will not displace other important goods and services? Please.
    How does Evanston’s compensation package compare to that provided by other communities? What data did the Mayor’s Compensation Committee review? What advantages and disadvantages did it identify with respect to a proposed raise? If there is such a report, let’s see it. If there is no such report, then this proposal ought to be shelved until such time as one is produced. All other questions aside, it’s difficult for the average citizen to evaluate the proposed raises for aldermen without reviewing whatever materials were considered.
    In any event, two ideas need to be considered. First, given the difficulties in defeating an incumbent alderman, the prospect of aldermen raising their own salaries, even for future terms, inherently involves a conflict of interest and approaches self-dealing. As the money belongs to the people, perhaps the people should vote on any proposed raise. Second, aldermen (and the mayor, too) should be subject to term limits. If term limits were in place, and no person were allowed to serve, for example, more than two consecutive terms, then a lot of the appropriate concerns over benefits for part-time employees might be mitigated as prudent aldermen would want to secure more consistent health insurance coverage. Moreover, however dedicated and wise any individual might be, the glory (and burden) of service should be spread around.

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