CITY HALL — Most City Council members will be getting a sizeable raise come 2023.
There are 15 aldermanic salary ranks, according to public salary data from the city’s Human Resources department. Not everyone on the council earns the same because they can accept or decline raises over the years, and the raises are tied to the consumer price index.
Earlier this month, alderpeople — who technically hold part-time positions — were tasked with accepting or denying raises again. Those who accepted it will get a 9.6 percent raise in January, a historically huge number because of record-high inflation rates.
This year’s inflation hike will bring the top pay for 30 alderpeople to $142,772 next year if they’ve accepted the $12,529 pay raise, according to the city’s Office of Budget and Management. The lowest-paid alderman, Gilbert Villegas (36th), makes $115,560, by comparison.
Seventeen out of 50 alderpeople have decided to forego the raise this year, city spokesperson Rose Tibayan said. The deadline to decide was Sept. 15; however, in the past, there have been alderpeople who submitted after the deadline and were considered.
Those who declined raises are alds. Daniel La Spata (1st), Brian Hopkins (2nd), Nicole Lee (11th), Marty Quinn (13th), Ed Burke (14th), Raymond Lopez (15th), Matt O’Shea (19th), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Felix Cardona (31st), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Gilbert Villegas (36th), Samantha Nugent (39th), Anthony Napolitano (41st), Brendan Reilly (42nd), Tom Tunney (44th), Matt Martin (47th) and Maria Hadden (49th).
“It’s such a high increase during a time when other people don’t get increases, [so] it seemed inappropriate as a representative,” Hadden said. “We can be experiencing the same things as our communities, and that can make us better advocates and representatives. Even though we all have financial needs because expenses are higher, I stand in solidarity with my constituents, many of whom are service workers.”
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th), who makes $130,248, opted to take the raise to balance out-of-pocket costs for ward events not covered by the ward’s expense allowance and for extra hours put in this past year, he said. He wanted to accept less, but aldermanic compensation isn’t negotiable.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Vasquez introduced an ordinance that would cap aldermanic salaries at 5 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is less.
“What we saw occur this past year is because of the inflation being so high, it automatically picked up the increase to that level,” Vasquez said. “We don’t need that to continue to happen.”
The Southwest Side’s Lopez — who is running for mayor – also introduced an ordinance that would reduce the annual salary for newly elected alderpeople and veteran members who have accepted all of the inflationary pay raises to $120,000, according to the Sun-Times. It would hold steady for four years and then be capped at a 3 percent inflation rate.
Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), who has been in office since 2011, accepted the raise because he didn’t take a raise for the first four years in office and wants to recoup that money. He’s accepted the yearly raises the past seven years, he said.
While Sposato said the inflation rate is substantial and he has not been financially impacted, the raise is a token for working hard on the job.
“I’m not sorry for taking it this year, and mainly because I’ve been the third-lowest-paid alderman my whole career,” Sposato said. “We shouldn’t be getting a 10 percent raise, but I didn’t make the rules.”
The conundrum over whether to accept annual raises for alderpeople has been in place since 2006, when City Council approved a pay raise tied to the inflation rate.
Dick Simpson, a former alderman and a University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor, said most aldermen have taken salary raises in the past, though this year’s 17 who declined is the largest number of those who said no.
As 44th Ward alderman from 1971-1979, Simpson made $80,000 when he entered office. He never took a raise because of his income as a professor, he said.
Simpson called Vasquez’s ordinance “the best solution” to controlling aldermanic raises.
“We have had high inflation periods where there was double-digit inflation, typically in the 1980s. When that’s happening, it’s also a great deal of [financial] difference,” Simpson said. “I think it would be ideal for Vasquez’s proposed resolution to pass because there’s so much pressure, so much backlash from people who want inflation rates [to go down] and wondering why aldermen get huge salary increases.”
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