Aldermen seek raise despite current earnings

Kevin Trahan

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Evanston’s aldermen listened to a report given by the mayor’s Compensation Committee at their meeting on Monday, which recommended a two percent pay raise for aldermen in the city. The plan will be voted on at a later meeting and would take effect after the next election period in 2013.

Aldermen in Evanston currently make $12,000 per year and receive health insurance and benefits that cost more than $10,000 per year.

Salaries for aldermen in the Chicago area vary by city. Aldermen in Chicago make over $100,000 per year, while those in Arlington Heights, a suburb northwest of Evanston, make only $2,800 per year. Part of the disparity has to do with responsibilities, which are greater in Chicago than Evanston, and greater in Evanston than some more affluent suburbs.

“My general understanding is it has to do with expectations,” Evanston Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said. “Chicago aldermen make many, many times more than what we make. In Evanston, the aldermen do not have any staff, any offices – we basically use the conference room (for meetings). We have to match things with our own resources.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said comparing salaries with aldermen in other communities is not always the answer, because those cities and villages have different challenges than Evanston. She used Wilmette, a small suburb on Evanston’s northern border with less socioeconomic diversity than Evanston, as an example.

“I think you’d have to do a survey of aldermen in multiple communities,” she said, “Look at Wilmette, for example. Their aldermen do not have to put in time ours do because they have a smaller population and a homogeneous population.”

Wilmette has a population of 27,206, compared to Evanston’s population of 74,486. However, aldermen in Arlington Heights and Skokie make less than their counterparts in Evanston, despite having similar populations, at 75,101 and 64,784, respectively.

Wilson said money should not be a big factor for aldermen, many of whom have side jobs.

“As you might guess, I’m not in it for the money,” he said. “I’m not planning to vote for pay raise, definitely not… A few hundred dollars more is not going to make much of difference for me, personally. I’d rather leave that money to do something productive for the city.”