CHAMPAIGN — A task force tapped to make a recommendation on what the city's elected officials should be paid will meet at least two more times before sending a formal recommendation to the city council.
The "city council compensation task force" is appointed every six years to study how much money is and should be paid to the mayor and city council members. The latest group met for the first time on Tuesday.
The task force has asked for more information about potential health benefits for elected officials, the city council's travel budget and how much time elected officials spend on the job. They are expected to discuss those topics when they meet again on Aug. 17 and 24.
City administrators prepared a survey of 18 comparable Illinois cities against which to weigh the current level of compensation for council members. Mayor Don Gerard's $35,000 annual salary is the highest among 14 part-time mayors in those 18 cities — his salary was set by the previous term's mayor and city council.
The salaries of the four full-time mayors in the 18 comparable cities range from $33,250 in Joliet to $122,518 in Springfield. One of the study area's full-time mayors is Urbana's Laurel Prussing, who is paid $61,690.
Champaign's city council members make less than the average for representatives in the 18 cities. Council salaries in the study area range from $1,200 to $19,000, with the average stipend at about $7,500. Champaign City Council members each receive a $5,000 annual stipend. Urbana City Council members receive $6,145 annually.
The task force is free to make a recommendation on any topic tied to city council compensation. That could include whether they receive items like a city car, health or pension benefits, mileage or travel reimbursement. Beyond their salaries and mileage reimbursement for the mayor, none of those benefits currently are offered to Champaign elected officials at the city's expense.
The task force will make a recommendation to the city council. The ultimate decision on city council compensation will be up to the council itself.
State law requires that the city council set compensation levels for the next term before an election. Because city council elections are staggered every two years, City Manager Steve Carter said any change to compensation levels likely would be effective after the spring 2015 election, to ensure all council members are receiving the same salary and benefits.
Carter reminded task force members that it is a politically challenging decision to make.
"People don't run for the money, and I don't think you want them to run for the money," Carter said. "But there are expenses associated with being a council member."