“I have no intention of voting for a raise for the Trustees,” responds Trustee Grady-Perovich
by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (February 22, 2020) – “It’s appropriate for us to look at [elected officials’ salaries] from time to time,” said Village Administrator Dan Podgorski at the February 18 Committee of the Whole meeting. While Village employees who belong to unions are taken care of through union negotiations, and non-union employee salaries are reviewed during the annual budgeting process, said Podgorski, there is no existing system to ensure that elected officials receive an appropriate salary. Podgorski had prepared salary reviews for the positions of Mayor, Clerk, and Trustee.
“It’s also important to note that elected officials cannot increase their own pay during their current term in office,” Podgorski pointed out. “Any changes to the pay structure for elected officials don’t go into effect until after the next municipal election in which their seat is elected.”
That means, for example, if the Board votes to raise the Mayor’s salary, the new salary would not go into effect until a new Mayor is elected—or Mayor Patty Eidam is re-elected—in April of 2021. The same applies for the Clerk position, which is currently held by Vivian Payne.
The salary increase also applies for the three Trustee positions that will be on the April 2021 ballot, positions currently held by Maureen Grady-Perovich, Brian Hardy, and Mike Manno. The remaining Trustee positions, currently held by Jerry Zeldenrust, Saad Abbasy, and Mike Fish, would have the salary increase applied after the 2023 election.
Raising the Mayor’s salary
Podgorski presented a list of seven communities and the salaries they pay their full-time mayors. The detailed list provided to the Board is available as a PDF here, and the base salaries are highlighted below:
- Alsip mayor: $75,289
- Broadview mayor: $55,000
- Calumet City mayor: $94,227
- Evergreen Park mayor: $117,634
- Lynwood mayor: $85,000
- Crestwood mayor: $50,000
- Richton Park mayor: $27,000
“So you can see that Lansing’s base pay is just below the average for those eight communities,” Podgorski summarized. Lansing’s annual salary for the role of mayor is currently $52,000, and the ordinance does not specify whether mayor is a part-time or full-time position in Lansing.
The current $52,000 mayor salary was the result of a discussion that began in 2015 when then-Trustee Patty Eidam asked her fellow Trustees to raise the salary Lansing pays its Mayor. Mayor Norm Abbott was nearing the end of his second term, and he had reduced his salary in 2012 in order to bring on a full-time Village Administrator at no extra cost to the Village. Village ordinance at that time stated, “The annual salary of the village president (mayor) is hereby set at $85,000.00, and shall be the sole salary which he shall receive for all the village president duties, including compensation as the local liquor control commissioner, and shall be payable in regular monthly installments.” This was to be the salary for a full-time mayor.
Lansing’s first full-time Village Administrator was hired in September of 2012. In response, Village Municipal Code was updated in 2013 to make the mayor position part-time:
“In view of the desire to promote and strengthen the community value of holding public office for noble reasons, and the belief that personal sacrifice for the honor of holding the public trust is promoted, and serving for personal gain is discouraged, …and in view of the fact that the president and village board have established the position of village administrator which will have the effect of dramatically reducing the village president’s responsibilities and the demands on his or her time, …the office of village president shall hence forth be considered to be that of a ‘part-time’ village president and his or her compensation shall be…set at $15,000.00, and shall be the sole compensation which he or she shall receive for all duties of the village president, including compensation as local liquor control commissioner….”
While some Lansing residents expressed appreciation for Abbott’s willingness to serve his community “for noble reasons” rather than as a political career, and while he had the support of the 2012 and 2013 Boards to reduce his salary, by 2015 Board opinion had changed. “It is my opinion that the salary established for the position of mayor in 2012 is not modest, it is unrealistic,” said then-Trustee Eidam in a December 21, 2015, email. “It may have been a good idea at the time, however, in reality, there are very few people in Lansing that could afford to be mayor with that salary.”
The March 16, 2016, change to the mayor’s salary also removed much of the language of the 2013 ordinance:
The current ordinance does not specify whether a mayor is full-time or part-time. The Village Administrator position is full-time, with a salary of $129,010.
Podgorski recommended to the Board “that the mayor’s annual salary be increased from $52,000 to $62,000, and keeping the $5,000 for Liquor Commissioner responsibilities, and it’s also recommended that the mayor functions as a full-time employee, he or she is entitled to health and dental insurance in the same manner as non-union employees.” This would represent a 19% salary increase.
Career politicians and community servants
Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich was the only Board member to respond to this section of the proposal. She expressed agreement that Mayor Abbott’s low salary was a hindrance to “attracting good people” to the role of Mayor and needed to be raised. “At that time [the 2016 raise] was a 280% increase in salary,” she said. “I don’t know how we can justify another 20% increase.”
Grady-Perovich continued, “We’ve only been at this role for three years almost. I don’t think I can support this at this time when some of our own employees are only getting 2% raises.”
Grady-Perovich also expressed her preference for the model of elected officials as public servants: “I don’t think anyone is coming in to be our mayor as a career move as much as I think it’s a dedication to the citizens of Lansing and the people that we want to serve. And so I struggle with that [salary increase].”
Grady-Perovich is currently the only elected official who is not a member of the Village Voice Party. There was no response to the concerns she raised, and Administrator Podgorski moved on to a presentation of the proposed salary increase for the Village Clerk.
Raising the Clerk’s salary
Lansing currently pays a salary of $45,000 for the full-time position of Village Clerk. Administrator Podgorski presented salaries of Clerks in six communities, some of which are different from the communities that had been chosen as comparable for the Mayor salary discussion:
- Blue Island Village Clerk: $68,600
- Calumet City Village Clerk: $83,098
- Evergreen Park Village Clerk: $105,057
- Lynwood Village Clerk: $62,486
- Oak Lawn Village Clerk: $58,644
- Worth Village Clerk: $61,404
“So the average full-time Clerk salary for those communities is $72,193, and some of those communities also have monthly stipends and a vehicle as well,” said Podgorski, “so it’s pretty clear that Lansing’s Clerk position is underpaid.”
Administrator Podgorski’s recommendation was that the Board raise the Village Clerk salary in Lansing from $45,000 to $65,000.
Trustee Grady-Perovich again was the only Board member to respond to the recommendation. She pointed out that at one time the Village Clerk also served as Collector, a role that earns a separate salary of $15,000. According to Village Municipal Code, “As of May 7, 2013, the village treasurer is appointed the collector.”
No clarification was provided on whether the 44% salary increase would also transfer the Collector duties back to the Village Clerk.
Vivian Payne ran as an Independent candidate and was elected Village Clerk in 2017. She joined the Village Voice Party in 2019 and plans to run on their ticket in 2021.
Raising the Trustees’ salary
Village Trustees in Lansing are currently paid $13,000 annually. Administrator Podgorski presented the following communities for comparison:
- Blue Island Trustee: $6,200
- Calumet City Trustee: $15,844
- Chicago Heights Trustee: $12,000
- Evergreen Park Trustee: $15,793
- Hazel Crest Trustee: $16,883–19,572
- Homewood Trustee: $2,000
- Lynwood Trustee: $6,300
- Matteson Trustee: $15,000
- Park Forest Trustee: $7,500
- South Holland Trustee: $3,000
“Trustee salaries have not been increased in eight years,” said Podgorski. His recommendation was to increase the annual salary from $13,000 to $14,000, with an additional $1,000 for the Trustee who serves as Finance Chair.
“The Finance Chair has extra duties,” explained Podgorski. “They review and approve all the bills.”
The average Trustee salary for the communities Podgorski listed is $10,052–10,321, nearly $3,000 less than Lansing’s current Trustee salary.
Trustee Saad Abbasy currently serves as Finance Chair. He responded to Podgorski’s recommendation by saying, “Anytime an elected official discusses salary and compensation for any of the elected officials, it’s a difficult one because we are entrusted with taxpayer money, and we are charged with being overseers of those monies. And so any decision to increase or even decrease elected official compensation is highly watched, critiqued, evaluated.”
“I do appreciate all the data that’s been provided,” Abbasy continued. “I do vow to the residents that I’m gonna spend a considerable amount of time reviewing the data that’s been provided from all the different communities and make my decision based on those things.”
Trustee Abbasy expressed appreciation for Trustee Grady-Perovich’s reminder about the Village’s non-union employees: “You did bring up a good point. I think that it would be good for us, as we look at increasing the elected officials’ salaries, to be mindful of our non-union employees and making sure that we are compensating those employees fairly and even beyond the annual cost of living increases.” Abbasy also expressed uncertainty about where the revenues would come from to increase salaries.
Trustee Grady-Perovich added, “I for one I can pretty much tell you right now I have no intentions of voting for a raise for the Trustees. I’m blessed to get what I get. It’s an opportunity to serve. Again, this is not a career move for me. I just want to give back to the community, and I think that’s why most of us are here. I think we need to take care of our employees before we start taking care of our elected officials.”
There was no further discussion of the proposal by any of the Trustees, but two members of the audience waited through the rest of the Committee of the Whole meeting and spoke during the Public Comment portion. “Please think long and hard about pay raises and who they’re for and what we’re gonna do with the taxpayers’ money for the Village of Lansing,” said one. Another referenced the businesses that have left Lansing and the need for other priorities to be addressed before a salary increase is considered.
Residents who have questions about Administrator Podgorski’s recommendation of a salary increase for the Mayor, Clerk, and Trustees—or who would like to comment on other municipal matters—are invited to contact their representatives directly:
- Email Mayor Patty Eidam, or call 708-895-7208
- Email Administrator Podgorski, or call 708-895-7202
- Email Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich, or call 708-832-4563
- Email Trustee Saad Abbasy, or call 708-832-4569
- Email Trustee Mike Fish, or call 708-832-4568
- Email Trustee Brian Hardy, or call 708-832-4564
- Email Trustee Mike Manno, or call 708-832-4566
- Email Trustee Jerry Zeldenrust, or call 708-832-4570
Village Board meetings and Committee of the Whole meetings take place at the Municipal Court Complex (the police station) at 2710 170th Street on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. The next meeting is scheduled for March 3, 2020.
- Village Board approves salary increase for Clerk (June 2020 article)
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