Politically connected Rosemont employee earns 5 times the typical area household
Christopher Stephens’ family ties landed him a position in local government – and an annual income far eclipsing that of local taxpayers.
Since its inception, one family has governed the village of Rosemont. And despite a population of just under 4,200 residents, that family’s political arrangements are highly lucrative.
Christopher Stephens – the executive director of Rosemont’s village-run Donald E. Stephens Convention Center – is banking a salary 545 percent larger than that of the typical village household. Stephens made more than $255,600 per year on average from 2015 to 2018, during which Rosemont’s median household income was less than $47,000. Christopher’s grandfather Donald Stephens, the convention center’s namesake, was Rosemont’s founding mayor.
Christopher’s uncle, current Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens, joins the venue’s executive director in taking home a high, taxpayer-funded salary. In 2017, Stephens became the second-highest paid mayor in the world after village trustees voted to increase his salary by 53 percent. That raise brought the mayor’s annual income to $260,000.
Brad, Christopher and Donald Stephens II – the village’s former police chief and public safety superintendent – are each enrolled in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, or IMRF. Since IMRF benefits are calculated based in part on end-of-career salary, these high-earning officials are likely to receive lucrative pension payouts.
Political connections have enriched the Stephens family for decades: As many as 10 members of the Stephens family have been on the village’s payroll concurrently since Donald E. Stephens founded the village in 1956. Donald Stephens served as mayor for more than 50 years before he died in 2007, when his son Brad took over the helm.
But Rosemont taxpayers, many of whom earn salaries dwarfed by that of local political leaders, haven’t enjoyed the same privileges as the Stephens family. Instead, Rosemont residents have been left shouldering a heavy tax burden.
Residents in Cook County – where Rosemont is located – paid an average effective property tax rate of 2.1 percent in 2017, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, a property data company. That’s nearly double the national average of 1.17 percent. What’s worse, property tax bills in the region are only likely to increase. And those bills come on top of high sales taxes imposed at the state and local levels, as well as a record state income tax hike lawmakers pushed through in 2017.
Instead of using political connections to enrich themselves, Rosemont officials should focus on policies that help local taxpayers thrive. Most importantly, lawmakers must work to relieve residents of their high tax burden. At a time when growing pension costs are straining municipal budgets across the state, the disparity between government incomes and the taxpayers who fund them isn’t just unfair – it’s unsustainable.