By BRITTANY KEEPERMAN bkeeperman @shawmedia.com
DeKALB – Dave Baker, 6th Ward alderman, wants to more than double the pay of DeKalb City Council members to encourage more candidates to run for elected positions, but his push for a pay hike comes as the city struggles to find money for everything from pension payments to road repairs.
“Five-thousand dollars is ridiculously low,” Baker said of the $5,400 a year paid to members of the City Council. “It should be at least $12,000.”
The council is set to discuss the pay issue at its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the DeKalb Municipal Center, 200 S. Fourth St
At Baker’s request, city staff compiled pay data for elected officials in other municipalities for the council members to use in reviewing pay for elected officials including the mayor, aldermen and city clerk.
Baker said council members who are better-paid will perform better.
“I see a degradation to the integrity of the council,” he said. “We let things go by that we know are wrong because no one has the energy or incentive to delve in and stop it.”
City Council members are paid $5,400 a year. City staff compiled compensation data for 12 comparable municipalities with council salaries ranging from $1,400 a year in Streamwood to $16,423 a year in Romeoville. The median pay for those 13 municipalities was $5,400. Romeoville’s council pay was more than double the second highest on the list, Hoffmann Estates ($7,400).
DeKalb’s $5,400 was above the median of $5,000 in a comparison with four other college towns, including Champaign ($5,000) and Carbondale ($4,200). DeKalb’s pay also is above the median of $4,800 on a list of other nearby communities, including Cortland ($2,400) and Rochelle ($5,000).
Bob Snow, 4th Ward alderman, said that although there was never a good time to look at pay for elected officials, he felt it was appropriate to review the data on a regular basis. City code calls for reviewing the compensation each June before a municipal election, according to a staff memo.
“I have no strong feelings one way or another, but [pay] hasn’t changed in several years,” he said. “It should be reviewed.”
Snow added that he didn’t think anyone on the council sought the office for the money.
“I don’t think anyone does it for the money, but there is a time commitment,” Snow said.
He said he spends up to seven hours preparing for a council meeting, sometimes reviewing hundreds of pages of documents or meeting with city staff members to go over complicated issues in more detail. Monday’s agenda included 495 pages of documents.
DeKalb’s mayor is paid $22,500, above the median of $17,500 for the same set of communities. In both Belvidere ($71,028) and Romeoville ($88,572), the mayor is a full-time elected position. The median mayoral salary was $12,000 in college communities and $22,250 in nearby communities.
Compensation data for the position of city clerk varied significantly depending on if the position was full time or part time.
The communities included in the data sets were the same as those used by professional services firm Sikich in a Pay, Compensation and Classification Study in April, according to a staff memo.
Sikich selected comparable municipalities using an “empirically based, weighted variable model” that factored in things such as population and municipal services were offered, according to the study. The towns were Carpentersville, Hanover Park, Romeoville, Crystal Lake, Streamwood, Wheaton, Rolling Meadows, Batavia, Elk Grove Village, Belvidere, Hoffman Estates, Sycamore and St. Charles. DeKalb County was also used as a comparable in the Sikich study at the city’s request.
Any changes the council makes to elected officials’ pay wouldn’t go into effect until the next election, 2017 for some seats and 2019 for others.
Baker said a salary bump would attract better candidates to the election.
“When you have a lot of issues facing a community,” he said, “... it really requires more time than people are putting in.”