2 in 5 Chicago city workers are paid $100K or more

2 in 5 Chicago city workers are paid $100K or more

Chicago had nearly 15,000 municipal employees paid at least six figures in 2017, up more than 1,000 from the previous year. That’s more than 40 percent of the city’s workforce.

The number of Chicago city workers paid at least $100,000 has grown substantially on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s watch – including those out-earning the outgoing mayor.

More than 40 percent of workers employed by the city of Chicago were paid at least $100,000 in 2017, a Sun-Times analysis published Jan. 11 found. The number jumped to 14,823 workers that year from 13,767 in 2016. By contrast, the $100,000 mark was hit by fewer than 17 percent of Cook County workers and 11 percent of state workers.

Chicago’s median household income is less than $53,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The pay analysis compiled workers’ wages, overtime pay and a range of “specialty pay” the Sun-Times database collectively indexes as “other.” All told, six-figure earners cost Chicago taxpayers nearly $2 billion in 2017 – accounting for almost 60 percent of the city’s total payroll.

Emanuel was paid $216,210 in 2017, but 86 subordinates made more than him in 2017. That was 50 additional workers who out-earned the mayor than in 2016. Most of the high earners were employed by the city’s police and fire departments.

The top pay of $400,000 went to Ginger Evans, the city’s former Department of Aviation commissioner. That included a $100,000 bonus on top of Evans’ $300,000 annual salary, according to the Sun-Times. Evans in 2016 also ranked as Chicago’s top-paid city worker.

Close behind Evans was Clarence Wisnar, a water department filtration engineer, collecting more than $344,000 in total pay. Wisnar, who earns an annual salary of $115,000, boosted his 2017 income with a nearly $201,400 “comp-time payout,” according to the Sun-Times. The water employee also pocketed more than $27,000 in overtime. Ivy Anderson, the department’s assistant chief operating engineer, collected over $231,100, more than half of which came from overtime pay.

Among the city’s top 10 earners, three police officers collected overtime that exceeded their six-figure salaries, significantly boosting their total pay. Detective Edward Heerdt, for example, supplemented his $111,000 salary with nearly $150,000 in overtime. Factoring in holiday and “other” pay, Heerdt collected $285,000 in 2017. Heerdt was one of three police officers out-earning the department’s highest-ranking officer, department Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who collected $260,000 that year.

The city doled out around $275 million in overtime pay in 2017, according to the Sun-Times, up from $266 million the previous year and accounting for 9 percent of the city’s payroll. Police, fire and water department workers captured the largest share of overtime compensation, largely due to benefits protected in their collective bargaining agreements.

Police Sgt. John Foster accumulated nearly $159,000 in overtime alone, the highest among all city workers. With $9,650 listed as “other” pay, that lifted Foster’s $111,000 base pay to $279,600 in total pay.

Beyond overtime, the amount of “specialty pay” awarded to city workers – such as bonuses and holiday pay – spiked by 50 percent over the year, costing the city $245 million in 2017.

The growth in six-figure earners on the city payroll will only further stress Chicago’s ailing pension systems. While overtime and specialty pay don’t affect pensions, city workers’ six-figure salaries – upon which their future pension earnings will be based – lead to unsustainable pension costs.

In total, Chicago-related pension funds have more than $41 billion in pension debt, the primary reason for which Moody’s Investor Service currently gives the city a “junk” credit rating. Further, Emanuel has strained Chicagoans with years of painful tax hikes in attempts at covering the city’s worsening pension shortfalls.

While real pension reform must come from lawmakers in Springfield, awarding excessive public payouts against the backdrop of massive pension debt is more than irresponsible: It’s an abuse of Chicago taxpayers.

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