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posted: 5/15/2012 4:07 PM

DuPage forest commissioners cut own salaries

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DuPage Forest Preserve commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to reduce their own salaries from nearly $57,000 to $53,500, but they disagreed on whether the cuts were deep enough.

Commissioner Joe Cantore suggested reducing salaries in October and on Tuesday fought to keep the issue from being tabled to next week's commission meeting.

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He urged fellow commissioners to cut their salaries to $50,000, roughly equal to the annual compensation DuPage County Board members receive.

"It was just time for some action," Cantore said. "We needed to get it done. But I don't think we reduced it enough and I guess you could call it a compromise."

Commissioners debated whether the eventual $3,500 cut -- or about 6 percent -- was enough. Commissioners Carl Schultz and Mike Formento argued their duties are different from county board members' and the $57,000 annual salary reflected that.

Both men lost in the March Republican primary and will surrender their seats after the November election.

Schultz said one forest commissioner represents the same number of people as three county board members per district. He added that county board members also have offices, while forest commissioners keep offices in their homes.

"It's not whether or not their work is more important or less important, it's that our responsibilities for what we do is somewhat more requiring of our time and effort," Schultz said.

Formento echoed Schultz, saying commissioners are essentially paid $52 per hour for 1,000 annual hours of work in overseeing a $200 million budget, 300 employees and 27,000 acres of land.

"Our salary is adequate and I do not see a need to consider matching salaries," Formento said.

Commissioner Linda Painter agreed that forest preserve salaries do not need to be in line with the county board's, but said she felt it would be good to cut the district's budget.

Cantore said he agrees, especially since forest preserve staff members have seen their salaries frozen in recent years.

"We're in a bad economy, we're asking our staff and vendors to make sacrifices, why aren't we?" Cantore said. "We are basically the board of a big corporation, so we have to lead by example. People need to know you are on their side."

Although commissioner salaries will be reduced, there will be no changes to pension or health care benefits.

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