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posted: 11/2/2012 5:05 PM

3 options in play for raising Aurora mayor's pay

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Three aldermen with three different ideas about how much the Aurora mayor should be paid are working to formulate a recommendation to the full city council before a Nov. 8 deadline.

The subcommittee, featuring aldermen Rick Mervine, Rick Lawrence and Scheketa Hart-Burns, was formed to examine possible raises for the mayor and aldermen after the April 9 election.

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Mervine and Hart-Burns favor a raise for the mayor's position, while Lawrence said other issues need to be addressed first.

Officials began looking at the $117,590 base salary for the mayor, who serves as the city's chief executive officer, because it is lower than the pay for CEOs in four comparable communities. Mayor Tom Weisner already has said he will seek re-election in April.

The subcommittee will meet again at 2 p.m. Friday in the aldermen's office, 60 E. Downer Place, to continue discussions and possibly make a recommendation.

No specifics have emerged about possible changes to the pay for aldermen, who make a $17,771 base salary, but at least three proposals have been floated to boost mayoral pay.

Mervine, who leads the panel, said Hart-Burns suggested the mayor's salary be raised to $153,000 after the election to bring it to the average compensation of CEOs in Elgin, Joliet, Naperville and Waukegan. Joliet's city manager makes the most among the comparison group, at $189,000 a year, and Waukegan's mayor brings in the least, at $118,502 -- just $1,000 more than the Aurora mayor's base pay.

"She (Hart-Burns) proposed we discuss and research the idea of taking it up to $153,000 the first year after the election and each of the remaining three years (of an elected mayor's term) a 3 percent increase," Mervine said.

Mervine, meanwhile, suggested an increase to $128,173 the first year, followed by 3 percent increases the remaining three years of the term.

"While what we're trying to do is correct a compensation issue, we're still not in a wonderful economy and we still need to take that into consideration," Mervine said. "I think this is a more reasonable plan and yet it does start to correct the problem."

The third proposal came from Weisner himself. In a letter to the subcommittee, he suggested the salary for the mayor's position -- regardless of whether he wins re-election in April -- be raised to no more than $125,000 next year, with a maximum of 2.5 percent raises in the three subsequent years.

The subcommittee's third member, Lawrence, said he does not think now is the time to raise the mayor's salary.

He said officials should first consider other monetary regulations or possible changes to Aurora's strong mayor form of government, in which the elected mayor runs the city full-time, before addressing compensation for the post.

"For the position, the salary is not correct, but other issues need to be addressed first," Lawrence said. "I don't think we should give any raises before we address some of these other issues."

Specifically, Lawrence said he wants to see a ban on anyone in the position of mayor soliciting campaign funds from companies the city contracts with. Without such a ban, Lawrence said he does not think taxpayers should be paying for a bump in the mayor's salary.

If the subcommittee makes recommendations on mayoral and aldermanic salaries, they will be forwarded to the committee of the whole on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and then to a special city council meeting immediately following. If salaries are to be changed, the decision must be approved by Nov. 8, 180 days before the spring election.

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