Most kids grow up wanting to be firefighters, police officers, doctors or professional athletes.
But maybe -- just maybe -- there are a few tykes out there who want something else. Come on, they do say the darndest things, after all.
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If they decide to be township assessors, steer them toward DuPage County, where they can maximize their earnings.
All nine township assessors in DuPage make the top 10 list in a comparison of assessor salaries in 50 suburban townships.
Five of those DuPage assessors make six-figure salaries.
The highest assessor paycheck goes to Naperville Township Assessor Warren Dixon. In fact, his 2011 salary of $118,500 makes him the highest paid of any elected official in the 50 townships.
It would take Cook County's Hanover Township Assessor Thomas Smogolski more than six years at his current salary of $19,014 -- the lowest in the 50 townships -- to earn what Dixon will this year.
To be fair, Cook County township assessors aren't responsible for assessing property like their counterparts in other suburban townships. That work is done by Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios' office. That's why Cook County township assessors are mainly at the bottom in terms of pay.
Dixon has a particular philosophy about why assessors in DuPage County receive higher salaries than the rest of their brethren.
"We get paid because we do the work," Dixon said. "I don't think you can get any more difficult than Naperville Township."
The most recent federal Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data on real estate appraisers and assessors listed the job with a national average salary between $34,330 and $66,640 in 2008. The top 10 percent highest-paid in the field averaged a salary of $88,680, according to the federal data. The top 10 highest-paid suburban assessors in our survey average a salary of $102,712.
Taxpayers will spend $3.3 million this year on assessors' salaries in the 50 townships covered by the Daily Herald in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties. The top 10 highest-paid positions make up almost a third of that cost. To put it in perspective, that same $3.3 million would buy 62,690 "average-priced" Chicago Cubs tickets at Wrigley Field, according to the sports-finance blog Team Marketing Report. White Sox fans could get 85,252 "average-priced" tickets to games at U.S. Cellular Field for what we're paying assessors.
Dixon defends the salaries of assessors because they have to keep up on educational requirements and have accredited qualifications to be an assessor. However, he suggests the job shouldn't be political, but rather appointed. Dixon said he once authored a study that shows a county-controlled assessment system would cost more per parcel of property than the current township system.
Dixon's been the assessor in Naperville Township since 1985 and has never been challenged for his seat. He recently gave up a private real estate appraisal business when state law required as much.
"I've got a lot more responsibilities than appraisers and they're paid better than I am," he said. "But I stayed with the job because I love the job."
Only Lake County's Vernon Township Assessor Gary Raupp disrupts the DuPage top-10 monopoly with his $109,254 salary.
"Vernon Township isn't like the others in Lake County," Raupp said. "It has the most parcels, most valuation and more industrial property. We have a lot more work."
The 27-year veteran also said he gave up lucrative private real estate appraisal work when he became assessor, which he noted the township board "looked at" when deciding his salary and 3½ percent raise this year.
To find out what all the elected officials in the 50 townships are paid, visit prev.dailyherald.com/packages/2011/townshiphealthcare.
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Got a tip for the suburban tax watchdog? Contact Jake Griffin at email@example.com or (847) 427-4602. And follow him online at facebook.com/jakegriffin.dailyherald and twitter.com/#!/DHJakeGriffin.