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Springfield City Council discusses pay increases for some city workers

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Raising pay for government workers is always a delicate subject. Springfield’s budget problems are well known, and the city has dramatically scaled back the size of its workforce already. And in an election year, raising pay for nonunion workers or for the city’s leadership makes for even more challenging optics.

But as long as there is inflation, there is justification for cost of living adjustments (COLA) for city workers. Any year without a COLA increase is functionally a cut in pay.  Mayor Langfelder brought a resolution calling for a 1.5 percent increase for non-union  employees. He said bringing the motion was important for transparency. However, the city council declined to take action this proposal.

Alderman Hanauer explained the council’s decision not to move on the motion. Pay increases are an executive function. Once the council has approved the budget, it is up to the mayor to assign raises as he sees fit and as money allows. Because the council had already approved money to cover these raises, implementing them was “100 percent an executive function.”

Aldermanic Pay

Alderman Theilen also brought forward two ordinances dealing with pay for the city council and the city’s executive officers. Like most units of government, the city council cannot raise its own pay. Any salary increases can only be approved for future councils. With the next municipal election coming up April 2nd, the time to implement an increase for the next cycle is now.

Alderman McMenamin said that these increases are important for making local office accessible to those of lesser means. Aldermen put in substantial numbers of hours for their wards. And city executives must leave the private sector. There has not been an increase for the last eight years, and if the increases are not approved, it will be another four before the matter can be brought up again. McMenamin said that personal finances should not be a reason someone should be unable to serve their community.

Other aldermen did not share this perspective. Alderwoman DiCenso said that people join the city council to serve their community, not to get rich. Passion, not profit, should be what motivates someone to run for office.

Both of Theilen’s ordinances passed out of committee and will be discussed at the next city council meeting.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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