Average Metropolitan Water Reclamation District employee makes nearly $100K per year

Average Metropolitan Water Reclamation District employee makes nearly $100K per year

Government employees responsible for managing water quality are earning six-figure salaries, despite a recent history of slacking on taxpayers’ time.

Cook County taxpayers may be spending a lot more than they might expect for water-quality management.

A new Better Government Association analysis found the average salary of workers at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, or MWRD, is nearly $100,000. The report also noted there are over 650 employees earning a base salary of $100,000 or more, and 22 employees even earned higher salaries than Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – whose salary is $216,210. And some 240 employees with six-figure base salaries received overtime pay on top of their regular compensation.

Despite this extraordinary taxpayer-funded compensation, a 2015 conversation between a security officer and a new employee, which was accidently recorded, reveals some MWRD employees allegedly spend work hours sleeping, drinking alcohol, watching TV and playing cards while on the taxpayers’ dime. As the Better Government Association reported:

“In one portion of the recording, the officer is apparently giving the colleague a tour of a secret hideout referred to as “the apartment” inside the Stickney water reclamation plant where employees nap, watch TV, play cards and drink alcohol on the job. The officer tells him, ‘I’m going to show you this, I’m going to trust that you’re not a [expletive deleted] plant from some clout-heavy [expletive deleted] who’s here to front us out.’”

According to the MWRD’s financial reports, the district has a budget of over $1 billion and collected more than $571 million directly from taxpayers in 2015. The district’s almost 2,000 employees cost taxpayers over $226.8 million for salaries. Taxpayers are also on the hook for the district’s $947 million pension liability. In addition to salaries and pensions, taxpayers also have to cover expenses such as overtime pay and workers’ compensation costs.

Since fall 2015, Chicago taxpayers have been hit with a $700 million increase in property taxes and fees, a $240 million utility-tax increase, an additional $250 million property-tax increase and a plastic bag tax, among other tax and fee hikes. Considering the tax burden placed on Chicagoans, it is galling that some government workers abuse their taxpayer-funded positions by doing nonwork-related tasks on taxpayers’ time.

Moreover, the MWRD salaries, overtime and pension costs are just for one unit of government in Illinois. Yet, Illinois has over 7,000 other units of government, more than any other state, which taxpayers are also funding. Each unit of government involves expenses – salaries, pensions, administrative costs such as office supplies and office rent, and more – that require property taxes to fund. Given that the average Illinois resident lives under and pays for six layers of government, it’s no wonder Illinois’ property taxes are the highest in the region.

In addition to paying for so many units of local government, Illinois taxpayers also pay for legislator salaries, which are among the highest in the nation, and for the nation’s highest state-worker compensation when adjusted for cost of living. Illinois residents are drowning in taxes, and the bloated cost of government is the reason.

Illinoisans cannot be expected to continue to pay for government waste and mismanagement. Local units of government, such as the MWRD, should be held accountable for every tax dollar they spend. Illinois lawmakers need to bring needed relief to taxpayers by allowing units of government to be consolidated or dissolved, and also by enacting cost-saving reforms, such as workers’ compensation and pension reform.

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