Raises for officials on the Champaign City Council agenda

Raises for officials on the Champaign City Council agenda

CHAMPAIGN – It's been 18 years since the Champaign City Council last approved a salary increase for the mayor and themselves.

But some council members say they're prepared to endorse a set of modest salary increases recommended to them by a special city council compensation task force.

In fact, at least two council members say they might be prepared to back increases even bigger than the task force is proposing.

The seven-member task force is recommending that the mayor's salary be increased to $30,000 annually from the current $25,000, and that the eight other council members' salaries be increased to $5,000 per year from the current $4,000. The task force is recommending the increases go into effect in May 2009.

The council approved creating a compensation task force in 1988 that reviews elected officials' salaries every six years and makes recommendations.

The issue will be considered by the Champaign City Council in study session at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

Task force Chairman Virgil Wikoff, who was mayor of Champaign from 1967 to 1975, said the task force believes the raises would put city officials on par with other cities of comparable size.

"It's been about 20 years since there's been any increase," he said. "We looked at other comparable communities, and we would be about average. It's up to them whether they take it or not."

Two Champaign council members said Friday they could support even bigger increases, such as increasing the mayor's salary to $35,000 and council members' pay to $6,000 per year.

Council member Ken Pirok said he thought the task force's recommendations were "a little low."

"The only thing I can think of was they had the intention of increasing salaries and didn't want to go too high because they had been voted down (by the city council) in the past," Pirok said.

Pirok also said he wants any salary increases for the mayor and the three at-large council members, both of whom will be up for election in April, to go into effect in May 2007, rather than waiting two years.

Council member Giraldo Rosales said he thought a mayoral salary of $40,000 "would be reasonable" and that council compensation should be at least $6,000.

"I don't think any of us is doing it to get rich," he said. "It's just a little bonus for the time we put into it. Even running a campaign we spend about $4,000."

In Urbana, Mayor Laurel Prussing makes $50,000 annually and aldermen received $5,000 per year.

Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart, who said he will definitely seek re-election in 2007, sounded pessimistic about the chances of salary increases being approved Tuesday. But he said the job of mayor takes a lot of time.

"It's much more full time than half time," he said. "There's a lot of involvement, a lot of meetings, PR work. It's not really something you can spend 20 hours per week on."

Schweighart, 68, said he will definitely seek re-election this spring and that, after a bout with lung cancer this past winter, his doctor has given him a clean bill of health.

"I enjoy it," he said about being mayor. "I did problem solving as a detective for 25 years, and I enjoy being in the mix and problem solving (as mayor). I like meeting the mix of people."

Council members Vic McIntosh and Michael La Due both said they would support the salary recommendations of the task force but probably would not go beyond that.

"Council duties and definitely the mayor's duties have increased," McIntosh said. "They deserve a raise."

Council members Tom Bruno, Gina Jackson and Marci Dodds could not be reached for comment.

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