Des Plaines approves nearly $200K salary for city manager

Des Plaines approves nearly $200K salary for city manager

Despite living in one of the most overtaxed counties in the country, the Des Plaines City Council approved an $11,255 salary increase for its city manager, raising the cost of government even more for taxpayers.

Suburban Chicago taxpayers have seen little in the way of relief from their high property taxes, but another Cook County city is deciding to make costs even higher.

In a 5-3 vote April 2, the Des Plaines City Council voted to give City Manager Mike Bartholomew an $11,255 pay increase, raising his total salary to $198,830.

The Daily Herald reported that some aldermen felt the raise was somewhat high, but overall the City Council felt a raise was deserved, with three aldermen even saying it should have been higher. This move comes just a little over a month after these same aldermen voted almost unanimously to spend $1.3 million in taxpayer money to buy the Des Plaines Theatre.

For area taxpayers already burdened with a high cost of government, the city’s recent spending decisions are not encouraging. Unfortunately, though, the decision to increase the cost of city officials is not uncommon for local governments throughout Illinois.

In March, the Decatur City Council approved a 6 percent salary increase for its city manager, Tim Gleason, boosting his annual salary to $176,500 from $169,100. This increase came despite the high median property tax bill in Macon County – where Decatur is the county seat – and a countywide median household income of just over $40,700.

Closer to Des Plaines, too, the Mount Prospect village board rang in 2018 by voting to boost its village manager’s salary to just over $214,000, with a $20,000 bonus.

Des Plaines, Decatur and Mount Prospect are just the most recent examples of city manager salary hikes. In all, at least eight other village or city managers in Illinois took home salaries north of $200,000 as of 2016, with Glenview’s village manager making more than $300,000 that year – the highest compensation for any municipal official in the state.

To put these salaries into additional perspective, the average salary for a U.S. governor was approximately $137,400 in 2016, according to the Council of State Governments. Not only are an abundance of city and village managers in Illinois exceeding that figure, but government finance watchdog Open the Books found that 144 municipal government employees in Illinois outearn the governors of all 50 states. In addition to city managers, this includes officials such as Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens – whose village neighbors Des Plaines – was the second-highest paid mayor in the entire world in 2017, though his village has just over 4,000 residents.

The high price of government officials in collar county towns like Des Plaines, Mount Prospect and Rosemont is way out of line with what taxpayers can afford. Taxpayers in Cook County – where those three towns are located – pay the eighth-highest median property taxes in the state and the 67th highest median bill in the country.

It’s disappointing news for Des Plaines taxpayers that its city decided to join the ranks of other financially reckless municipalities across Illinois, but that doesn’t mean others have to follow suit. Local governments in the collar counties and elsewhere in Illinois should begin to take the opposite approach – cut administrative costs and enact reforms to lower the intense property tax burdens Illinoisans face. Otherwise, local government will continue to become unaffordable.

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