Panel urges new limit on officials' health benefits

Compensation Committee member Rebecca Berneck.

A committee chosen to recommend what Evanston elected officials should be paid after next April's election voted Thursday to call for new limits on the officials' city-paid health coverage.

Aldermen, the mayor and the city clerk are now permitted to choose either individual or family health coverage plans with the bulk of the cost paid by the city.

Under the proposal, largely developed by committee member Rebecca Berneck, the officials would be entitled to have the city fully pay for the cost of an individual health insurance plan. They would have the option of upgrading to a family health plan, but would have to cover the entire additional cost of that plan themselves.

The committee estimates the change would save the city $440,000 over the four-year term of the next City Council.

The committee's report says Evanston elected officials receive by far the highest compensation among 16 north suburban communities surveyed and only two of the towns surveyed offer any health coverage to their elected officials.

The committee, during its online meeting Thursday evening, also recommended that the cash compensation of the officials remain unchanged for the first two years of the new term and that they receive the same percentage pay increase as the city's non-union employees in the last two years of their term.

The committee, chaired by former 1st Ward alderman Cheryl Wollin, says in its report that it appreciates "the immense work and responsibilities of Evanston's elected officials," but also noted the tremendous budget challenges the city faces now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The also criticized the disparity created by the existing system which sees aldermen with families who choose the family insurance program receiving far more total compensation from the city than an alderman without dependents who is only eligible for individual health coverage.

A final decision on the compensation of the officials to be elected next April will be up to the current City Council, which is likely to take up the issue next month.

In addition to Wollin and Berneck, the committee members, appointed by the mayor, include Omar Brown, Nehanda Loiseau and Rick Marsh. Loiseau was not present for Thursday's meeting.

Related story

Panel seeks to level cost of officials' compensation (5/8/20)

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