Chicago City Council faces looming deadline to take, reject automatic pay raise ahead of election

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ByCraig Wall via WLS logo
Thursday, August 25, 2022
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The Chicago City Council is facing a deadline to decide whether to take or reject an automatic pay raise ahead of a February election.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago City Council is facing a conundrum that will either hurt them in their wallets, or potentially hurt them with voters.

A nearly 10% raise for next year is at stake with an election in February.

Ald. Gil Villegas of the 36th Ward has forgone an automatic raise for past three years and doesn't intend to take this next one either.

"There has to be a shared sacrifice and this is my perspective on it. And so, while people were losing jobs or in a pandemic, and while people are still not getting raises, I think it's I think it doesn't look right. The optics aren't great," Villegas said.

Since 2006, aldermanic raises have been automatic, and tied to inflation.

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Currently, salaries range from $115,560 to $130,238, with 30 aldermen making that much. With a 9.6% automatic pay increase next year, it would boost those salaries to between $126,659 and $142,741 per year.

"So, while I'm like the rest of the people in my community, I could always use help. But I also don't want us to raise property taxes. I don't want us to balance the budget, again off the backs of our constituents and so, I'm willing to give up my raise so are a few of my co-workers," said 20th Ward Ald. Jeanette Taylor.

Unlike property tax increases, which are also tied to inflation, but have a cap of 5%, the aldermanic raises have no cap. Ald. Ray Lopez, who is not seeking reelection in the 15th Ward, but is instead running for mayor, said he wants to see salaries overhauled.

"I will introduce an ordinance in September, which caps the salary right now at $120,000, makes the job full-time and limits the increase to pay raises at 3% only effective for the next term," Lopez said.

But with many aldermen saying they put in 60, 70 or 80-hour work weeks, it could be a hard sell.

"I do think we need to visit the capping of the annual increase that I think is fair game, making, you know, salary changes, I don't think is, you know, beneficial for trying to get good people to take on this work. I mean, this is hard work. This is not easy work," said 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin.

Aldermen have until Sept. 2 to decide if they are not going to accept the pay raise. Otherwise, it will automatically go into effect in January. If all city council members accept their pay increase, it will add more than $600,000 to the budget.