Normal’s mayor and council members will see higher salaries beginning in 2021.
The council voted Monday night to raise the mayor’s salary from $18,000 to $32,000, and to raise council members’ salaries from $4,800 to $6,800.
Mayor Chris Koos said he was “very much” behind the push for higher compensation for both positions.
“The mayor’s job has changed significantly since I’ve been involved,” he said.
Koos said it costs him an estimated $45,000 beyond his current salary to serve as mayor.
That includes the impact on his own business as well as uncompensated travel costs. Koos owns Vitesse Cycle Shop at 206 S. Linden St. in Normal.
“It took me out of my business, so I had to hire additional people for day-to-day sales because I’m not there anymore,” he explained.
While a staff report estimated the “part-time” position actually demands an over 40-hour-a-week time commitment, Koos said the mayor is a round-the-clock job.
“If you’re at the grocery store, you’re at the hardware store, you’re working, because people will come up to you and want to know what’s going on,” he said.
Koos said he also considered how the salaries affect who runs for public office.
“If you look across the country in council-mayor forms of government you see people that are wealthy, you see people that are retired for the most part,” he said.
Council Member Chemberly Cummings said her position comes with similar demands and barriers to entry.
“We no longer live in a world where we can come in here on Monday nights, have a little all-male pow-wow and leave, because we live in an age of social media, where people constantly have questions, which then pushes us to constantly be seeking (out) answers for you,” she said.
The Town last raised the mayor’s salary from $10,000 in 2009. Council member salaries haven’t seen an increase since 2005.
Cummings said going that long without a raise would be unthinkable in the private sector.
“So what difference is it for those who serve you, and serve you with the best of heart?”
There’s no guarantee Koos or any sitting council member will see a raise, however. The higher salaries won’t take effect until May 2021.
Koos said that’s appropriate.
“Anyone who votes for a pay increase should have to stand an election,” he said.
But other council members felt uneasy about the timing of the vote.
Council member R.C. McBride, who is also GLT's general manager, supported the mayor’s raise but voted against increasing council members’ salaries.
He said while he approved of increasing compensation for both positions, “I just can’t take the leap of doing something like this that might be perceived as doing it for myself.”
Council member Kathleen Lorenz voted against both measures, citing the town’s finances.
“Our budget last year wasn’t great,” she said. “I don’t know that our budget in the coming year is going to be notably better. I question whether any raise, even a more reasonable number, is a mission-critical step we need to take this year.”
Outgoing council member Jeff Fritzen said he wasn’t sure staff had found the right numbers for the proposed raises.
“I’ve never wanted the compensation to be at such a level that someone did it for the money—I felt it’s important for us to protect against that,” he said. “Now to some degree I believe we have to protect against compensating too little, and that becoming an obstacle for some people’s willingness to serve.”
Fritzen motioned to reduce the proposed salaries to $25,000 for the mayor and $6,000 for council members. With both amendments failing, he voted for a raise for council members, but opposed increasing the mayor’s salary.
He said the idea was to update the salaries to reflect the increased cost of living.
Fritzen said while the approved increases would continue to provide fair compensation in the face of another decade-long lapse, he hopes the next council won’t wait that long.
“Our practice has been that we don’t revisit this subject very often, so we’re kind of our own worst enemy in that regard” he said.
Capital Improvements Spending
Council members also unanimously approved the town’s capital improvements spending plan.
The Community Investment Plan incorporates 122 capital projects, including Constitution Trail improvements, park renovations and roadwork into the town’s next six annual budgets.
McBride suggested the plan, which totals an estimated $88.3 million, won’t receive the public attention it’s due.
“The increases in pay that we talked about earlier this evening that amount to less than $25,000 a year accounted for 100 percent of the public comment, and I suspect the great majority of social media traffic, and stemming from that, I suspect most of the media coverage going forward,” he said. “But the CIP, that is our prioritization and speaks volumes about what our priorities are, and involves millions of dollars potentially over five years, we don’t hear much about.”
McBride encouraged residents to look through the document for projects that might affect their neighborhoods.
“Take a look, click on these things if you see something that’s important to you, and let us know about it,” he said. “What we hear from you the citizens informs our decisions and informs staff’s prioritization.”
The total estimated cost to implement the projects is about $6.26 million lower than last year’s CIP projections following the completion of the new Normal Fire Department headquarters at 606 S. Main St. The largest portion of planned spending is dedicated to water, sewer and stormwater projects (46 percent), followed by roads and sidewalks (23 percent), vehicles and equipment (26 percent), parks (5 percent) and public facilities (3 percent).
The full plan along with detailed project descriptions is available on the town's website.
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