A move to raise the Wauconda Township supervisor's salary by more than 20 percent next year is drawing fire from other township officials and residents who say it's inappropriate given the state of the economy and small raises for others.
The township board, including current Supervisor Glenn Swanson, voted 3-1 last month in favor of the pay raise, which would increase the position's salary from $54,277 to $65,504 effective in May 2013, according to documents obtained by the Daily Herald under the Freedom of Information Act.
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Swanson, who plans to seek re-election for a third term next year, said the board is mirroring surrounding townships by equalizing salaries between the Wauconda Township's three full-time positions: supervisor, assessor and highway commissioner.
"Since 2005, the supervisor's position has been severely underpaid compared to the highway commissioner and assessor," Swanson said.
He noted that he will benefit from the increase only if voters re-elect him next year.
"As far as setting the elected officials' salaries, this is not about 'Glenn's' salary. This is about the next election cycle in 2013 through 2017," he said.
Every four years, township law requires officials to set salaries for elected officeholders 180 days prior to an election. Unlike a mayor or village board president, a township supervisor may vote on all matters before the town board and participate in all discussions.
Township trustees John Amrich and Mary Schorr joined Swanson in approving the new supervisor's salary.
"I love my job, I'm not in it for the money," said Swanson, who also works part-time as a real estate agent at AMR Properties Inc. in Wauconda. "I'm not going to get rich here, but I need to get paid."
Trustee Gary Thompson, who cast the only vote against the raise, questioned why the supervisor position is the only one getting a significant pay hike.
"We're freezing salaries, for the clerk, for the road district treasurer, the other elected officials we're freezing the first two years, but the supervisor gets a 21 percent increase," he said.
The move also drew criticism from township residents who witnessed the vote.
"Taxpayers want to see something done about the rising cost of the government, we want to see a fair and meaningful plan," said Lake Barrington resident Richard Rowe. "In no way do I feel that there are any employees here that do not work hard, but since the economy did take a hit, the lowest level of government is getting the brunt of everything, other areas in the village -- park district, library board, and so forth -- are being called upon to make cuts in their budgets and think about how they're spending their taxpayers dollars."
Under the salary plan approved by the township board, the clerk will receive a $1,210 raise next year and be frozen at that level for the next four years. The highway commissioner and assessor's salary will remain the same, $65,504, for two years followed by a 3 percent raise the next two years. The road district treasurer's salary will remain $1,000, and trustees' salaries will be locked at $2,252.
Swanson confirmed that all trustees were notified of the proposed salary changes at least a month prior to the meeting.
However, Township Clerk Chris Rowe said there are no records of trustees discussing the salary hike before the vote.
Prior to proposing the pay raise, Swanson said he gathered and analyzed data from comparable townships, including Avon, Ela, Freemont, Grant, and Lake Villa. Careful to avoid violation of the open meetings act, Swanson said he spoke with trustees one at a time about matching salaries between all the township's full-time township positions.
Thompson said he doesn't recall discussing a raise of more than 20 percent for the supervisor.
"I agree that (the supervisor) position is a little light on compensation," he said. "But nobody's getting raises these days."
Instead, Thompson believes the supervisor's salary should have been adjusted gradually over a long period of time to match the other full-time employees' salaries.
Assessor Patricia Oaks said the supervisor position does more than people realize, but her position is the only one that requires a specific degree.
"To run for assessor, out of all positions that are up for re-election, it's the only one where you're required to go to school," said Oaks, in response to the supervisor's salary matching hers.
Swanson noted that the taxpayers should benefit from a 27 percent tax levy reduction made by the township in 2012.