Nixing Benefits, Doubling Salaries?

Naperville’s City Council could be changing the compensation structure of their successors, yet again.

At their latest meeting, Councilman Steve Chirico proposed getting rid of health benefits for council members and instead, increasing their salary to $24,000 a year.

Chirico said it would save the city money in the long run and help create a better council, because more people would be able to run.

“If you pay a reasonable wage for doing this job, you’re going to get a diversified council,” said Chirico. “And maybe we can have a chance of achieving the vision of our forefathers, which was a well-balanced, strong council.”

However, it would only be a cost savings if every person on the council took the health benefits, which currently isn’t the case.

Now, council members make on average $13,100 annually between salary and stipend, and the city budgets about $17,500 for all benefits, adding up to a group total of $244,800 if all take the highest priced plan.

But with the new plan, the eight salaries combined come to $192,000, a savings of almost $53,000.

But, if those figures were applied to the current council, the city would save only $355, because only five take any insurance at all.

The council voted 6-3 to direct staff to draw up a new ordinance following Chirico’s plan, with Grant Wehrli, Paul Hinterlong, & Doug Krause voting no.

Some were left wondering if the move had an underlying motivation, in the wake of earlier cuts of Internet and phone benefits, along with pension participation.

“But, I look at this as it was getting whittled away, whittled away and we got outside pressure from the public, the people who put us in these chairs was growing and growing,” said Councilman Grant Wehrli. “So finally here we are as a last ditch effort trying to save everything before it goes away. And by the way we can do it in a cost saving matter so it looks good even though we’re going to double our salary. Too late in my book.”

“The timing is suspect,” said Chirico. “And normally that is an indication of political motivation. But even if there is political motivation, it can still help us get to where we need to be.”

If approved, future council members could use the city’s insurance, but would have to pay for it themselves, a practice that council would also like to apply to former council members.

The group also backed a plan to pay the next mayor a $42,000 salary all in.

The council will now have to formally vote on the plan, which could happen as early as the April 29 meeting. If approved, the changes would impact those elected next spring.

The council also approved a $1.87 million contract for new recycling carts, which will be mandatory if you plan to recycle come summer. No word yet on the price of the carts, but council members said they would like to see little to no cost to the residents.

“20 plus years ago when I came home one day there was a brand new blue tub out there that we use today,” said Councilman Hinterlong. “They wanted to promote recycling and by doing that they gave us a free bin and we’ve been doing it ever since. As time goes by we upgrade and I think we need to do that again. And find that money wherever it is.”

City staff said all residents will receive a postcard to choose either a 32, 65, or 95 gallon cart or opt out. But, if you don’t reply, you’ll get the largest container.

The new carts are scheduled to be implemented August 1.

Also at the meeting, Naperville resident Juan Carlos Hernandez was presented a Fire Chief’s Award for his heroism during the Douglas Ave. fire back on March 21.

The fiscal year 2015 gross annual operating budget was also approved along with the allocation of $2 million in SECA funds approved at a previous workshop.

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