CHICAGO — As Chicago faces a $500 million-plus budget shortfall, Mayor Brandon Johnson and 48 alderpeople are poised to receive raises in 2024 — though the Mayor’s Office won’t answer questions about it.
The annual raises for the city elected officials — the mayor, city treasurer, city clerk and all 50 alderpeople — are tied to the Consumer Price Index. In 2024, that equates to a 2.24 percent increase.
Under a previously passed ordinance, the pay hikes will kick in automatically on Jan. 1 unless elected officials opt out by notifying the city’s budget office.
Johnson’s office did not answer questions about whether he would accept the raise, but he did not submit paperwork declining it, according to records obtained by Block Club. By not opting out of the pay hike, Johnson would receive a raise of about $4,800 next year, which would bring his salary to $221,052.
With raises, most members of the City Council — including 12 freshmen alderpeople who took office in May — are set to make $145,974 in 2024.
Block Club’s Mick Dumke explains how these pay raises work:
City officials would not release a full list of salaries, but four alderpeople, the city clerk and city treasurer confirmed to Block Club they will accept the raise.
Only two city officials turned down the salary increases as of Friday: Alds. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), records show. The two alderpeople, both progressive allies of Johnson’s, sent signed statements to the city’s Office of Budget Management declining the raise.
No other elected officials did so, according to budget office documents received by Block Club.
Who Is Taking The Raise?
The pay hikes often become a political issue as the city grapples with budget shortfalls. Johnson’s budget team announced earlier this month the city faces a $538 million gap between expected revenues and expenses in 2024.
Johnson did not answer Block Club’s questions about his potential salary boost. In a written statement, his office said he is working closely with alderpeople to prepare the 2024 budget, which he’s set to unveil in the coming weeks.
The statement suggested that the salaries of elected officials could still change before the budget is passed later this fall.
“Budget negotiations and decisions are an evolving process, and no aspect large or small, including the salaries of elected officials, are definitive until the entire budget is balanced and finalized,” the statement read. “Details on which elected officials accepted or rejected salary increases will be provided when the mayor releases his recommendations next month, and all elements of compensation will be codified when the City Council passes the final FY2024 appropriation ordinance.”
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If Johnson accepts the pay hike, it would be the first for Chicago’s mayor since 2006.
Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot last year successfully pushed a measure to tie salary raises of the mayor, clerk and treasurer salaries to inflation, which she defended at the time as a “cost-of-living increase.”
Both City Clerk Anna Valencia and Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin are also slated to get raises because they didn’t submit the paperwork to turn them down, records show. Their salaries would increase to $164,628 in 2024.
Each accepted a more than 20 percent raise in 2022, the first salary bump for those positions 2005.
A spokesperson for the treasurer’s office declined to comment. A spokesperson for the clerk confirmed Valencia accepted the raise, saying in an email that “the Clerk’s family like many families in Chicago is facing a rising cost of living.”
Among those who will accept the raise are Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), the council’s longest-serving member. Burnett told Block Club he has taken every raise offered since he took office in 1995.
“I think I deserve a raise. I think I work hard, put in a lot of hours,” he said, estimating that he usually works 14 to 16 hours a day. “I’m at retirement age. Why wouldn’t I take it? If I don’t take it, my pension would be less.”
Nineteen other veterans will accept the 2024 boost but will take home less than $145,974, usually because they have turned down raises in the past.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) has the smallest paycheck in the council at $115,560, records show. He confirmed he will accept the 2024 raise, boosting his salary to $118,149.
Sigcho-Lopez said on Friday he declined the raise this year as a “statement of solidarity” with working Chicagoans who make far less than alderpeople.
“I think that today more than ever, we see the discrepancy, the disparities between CEOs that can make a salary in a day, in a matter of hours, while working people are struggling,” the Pilsen alderman said. “So we wanted to, one, don’t fall for the distraction from the real issues and two, express solidarity to working people.”
City Won’t Release Salary Information Until October
Chicago’s elected officials had until Sept. 15 to accept or deny the 2024 raise. Historically, the city has promptly released information about who accepted raises and who did not.
But the city’s Office of Budget Management this week declined to provide a list of salaries, saying it would release the information in mid-October, when Johnson’s team releases its proposed 2024 budget.
“Just like all items in the Mayor’s budget recommendation, City Council members have the opportunity to propose amendments for consideration by the full body, with salary and wage determinations made final once the budget is passed and appropriated,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement earlier this week.
In response, Block Club filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records showing which officials accepted or denied the 2024 raise. The budget office released those documents Friday.
They showed that the budget office received signed forms rejecting the 2024 raise from Sigcho-Lopez and Rodriguez-Sanchez. Those were the only such documents “that our office has received thus far,” the budget office wrote in an email.
Rodriguez-Sanchez did not immediately return a request for comment.
This year’s 2.24 percent raise is significantly less than what was offered to alderpeople last year: Due to high inflation rates, alderpeople were due for a 9.6 percent raise in 2023. That meant the highest-paid alderpeople received a $12,529 hike in 2023.
Seventeen alderpeople declined the raise last year, which came in the midst of the 2023 municipal election campaign.
The sizable raises sparked proposals to cap aldermanic pay bumps in years with high inflation.
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) introduced a measure that would limit aldermanic raises to 5 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is less — similar to the system in place for the mayor, treasurer and clerk. The proposal failed to gain traction in the council.
Like last year, Vasquez said he opted to take the latest raise to balance out-of-pocket costs for events not covered by the ward’s expense allowance and for extra hours put in this past year. The alderperson said although he wanted to accept less, aldermanic compensation isn’t negotiable.
“There’s no option to take lesser amounts,” Vasquez said. “And the amount of work we’re doing right now, which I think has been clear in doing this job and also being a committee chair on immigration, I made the decision to not to decline the raise.”
Villegas accepted this year’s raise after pledging not to take one during the pandemic, he said. But he told Block Club he would support capping aldermanic raises at 5 percent, which he said would be more in line with private-sector standards.
“We need to make sure that we’re being reasonable in understanding and taking these raises. So capping it at 5 percent is something definitely I can support,” he said.
Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) also accepted the raise, a spokesperson confirmed this week, but will remain the city’s second-lowest paid City Council member. The Southwest Side alderperson will make around $118,394 in 2024, about $250 more than Villegas.
“This is only the third or fourth raise he’s accepted since 2011,” a spokesperson for Quinn said.
Block Club’s Alex V. Hernandez and Melody Mercado contributed.
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