Cook County board gives itself 10% raise, automatic future pay increases
The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted May 24 to increase its members’ salaries 10% in December, followed by automatic annual pay increases each year up to 3%. Civic groups say the perpetual pay hikes pose future concern.
President of the Cook County League of Women Voters Cynthia Schilsky said members of her organization supported the raises for the officials - but not indefinitely. The Civic Federation similarly opposed the automatic pay raise provision.
“We elect these people to serve in their office, and they should be required to be transparent about what they’re saying their salaries are,” Schilsky told the Tribune. “It would be much better, to the point, that they vote on it rather than just have it continue forever.”
Other board members like Sean Morrison voted against the measure, arguing that now was not the time for county officials to be considering pay raises.
“It’s not the type of situation that I think we need to be in,” Morrison told the Tribune after the vote. “We have inflation that’s up. People are paying $5 for gasoline. … I do not believe this is the time for it.”
The cost-of-living adjustment would increase the officials’ salaries by 3% each year or the Chicago region consumer price index – whichever is smaller – without requiring an annual vote. Over the last 12 months, the index has increased 7.2%.
Board Commissioner Stanley Moore argues the automatic salary increases are long overdue. Most Cook County employees currently receive a cost of living adjustment or COLA.
“I’m a full-time commissioner and I had to pull my child out of private school because the cost keeps going up every year, but my salary stays the same,” Moore told the Tribune. “It’s unfair to people who want to do this job and commit full-time efforts to their community.”
County board members received their last raise in 2002. The local leaders receiving these salary increases include Cook County’s board president, sheriff, assessor, clerk, treasurer, and circuit court clerk, as well as all 17 board commissioners and three members of the Board of Review. All seats are up for reelection in November 2022.
Illinois politicians already promise state workers – like the county board members — a 3% compounding annual increase towards their pension benefits each year before retirement. Those promises have left Cook County residents on the hook for $27 billion in pension debt.
Now those same officials have given themselves automatic pay raises every year “until the Cook County Board of Commissioners votes to repeal or amend the annual increase," according to the ordinance. Members will not be required to publicly vote on the raises moving forward either.
Illinois‘ elected officials should be transparent with taxpayers when they vote to increase their own salaries and set explicit limitations on future growth. Raises are rewards taxpayers afford for exemplary public service, not guarantees of office dictated by schedule.