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Rainey urges revamping aldermanic pay

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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.

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