61 Vernon Hills village employees earn more than $100K

61 Vernon Hills village employees earn more than $100K

More than half of the full-time village workforce takes home total compensation over $100,000 annually.

The cost of government is no minor toll for Illinoisans. For many, the price of maintaining their local governing bodies commands an ever-greater share of their incomes with each passing year. And while by no means the sole factor, one of the most apparent cost drivers is the excessive compensation earned by many local government officials across the state.

In one Lake County village, for example, nearly half of those employed by the municipality earn more than six-figure incomes, when factoring in perks and benefits. Sixty-one of 130 employees in Vernon Hills take home more than $100,000 in total annual compensation, according to compensation records for fiscal year 2018.

Excluding part-time and other temporary employees, more than half of the village’s full-time staff makes over six-figures in wages and benefits.

Nineteen Vernon Hills employees listed earned a base salary exceeding $100,000. Vernon Hills Village Manager Mark Fleischhauer is the highest earner, whose base salary of $180,000, supplemented by $24,531 in benefits, comes out to a total compensation of $204,531. Before submitting his resignation in March, preceding Village Manager John Kalmar had been collecting a base salary of $206,428, according to village records from fiscal year 2017.

Filling the role of village manager was merely one means through which Kalmar managed to collect six-figure compensation – another was vacating it. For reasons that have yet to be made clear to taxpayers, the village indicated Kalmar’s termination as early as March 16. On April 4, village trustees voted unanimously to approve an agreement between Kalmar and municipality that included a mutual non-disclosure pact and a severance package for the former village manager amounting to $161,000.

With more than 60 six-figure earners on staff, however, lofty compensation isn’t just awarded to employees in leadership roles. While law enforcement officials make up the bulk of those earning more than $100,000, records show employees in subordinate roles receiving six-figures as well. Including perks and benefits, village records show an assistant telecommunications supervisor, two administrative assistants, a mechanic and three maintenance associates earning upwards of $100,000 annually.

But it isn’t just the costs of excessive salaries alone that taxpayers cover. The steepest costs will be imposed on future taxpayers when pension payouts come due. Government-worker pensions are calculated based, in part, on employees’ late-career earnings. That means the higher compensation climbs, the greater the eventual cost of funding public-worker pensions. As ballooning pension payments crowd out funding for core government services at the state level, local property taxpayers are often called upon to make up the shortfall.

It’s true that Illinoisans throughout the state are struggling under a punishing property tax burden. But property tax bills issued to Lake County residents are among the highest property tax bills in the state.

Reining in excessive government worker compensation is a commonsense way to provide property tax relief without jeopardizing the delivery of core services. Policymakers should keep this in mind, especially in a county with extraordinarily high property taxes.

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