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updated: 6/11/2013 7:10 PM

Naperville council costs taxpayers more than $238,000

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Barely on the job a month, Naperville City Councilman Dave Wentz soon will be collecting the fourth-largest compensation package of all eight seated council members.

Wentz's annual compensation package is worth $26,700, nearly $12,000 more than Grant Wehrli, who has served seven years on the council. It's only $1,000 less than 24-year council veteran Doug Krause.

That type of discrepancy has caused several council members to call for a special workshop this September to discuss options for making their compensation more comparable across the dais.

"Everyone is up (for election) in 2015, so let's sort this all out and get everyone on the same page before the campaigning begins," Wehrli said Tuesday. "Let's take the health care options, the IMRF, the salary and the Internet stipend and everything else and put it all on the table and see what solutions we come up with."

In all, the eight council members and Mayor George Pradel will receive more than $238,000 in annual wages and benefits this fiscal year from the city.

According to documents obtained by the Daily Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request, Naperville pays a total of $103,887.38 in council member benefits compared to $134,150.11 in wages, including a $1,200 annual stipend to cover cellphone and home Internet costs.

Newly elected officials, like Wentz, enter the system at the predetermined entry level salary of $12,316.62. But the number grows when they tack on the stipend and, in Wentz's case, $13,181.40 for other benefits.

"This is the package that was provided for me upon election and an overwhelming majority of everyone else has chosen a similar package. It's a personal choice that we make to best fit each of our families," Wentz said. "This is a reasonable salary that compensates us for time taken away from other viable forms of income. We are, after all, doing the people's business."

Councilman Steve Chirico, midway through his first elected term, is the most highly compensated council member, besides Pradel, with a total benefits package valued at $32,679.94.

"I think the compensation package is very fair. You've got to have compensation that allows the everyday person to be able to contribute to this thing," Chirico said. "By reducing that number, you will continually narrow the scope until you eventually only have independently wealthy people and retired people running for office. They have a lot to offer but you want to have a comprehensive council."

Still, Chirico agrees the system needs to be reorganized before the next council is seated.

"When you have a new council member being compensated at significantly different levels than some of the others, the amounts get confusing and everyone wants it cleaned up," Chirico said. "I'm going to propose taking everything off the table. Instead, we should get one salary commensurate to today's package. If a council member chooses to use that salary to cover Internet or cellphone or health expenses, that's up to them."

Wehrli, whose total compensation is about $15,176, does not take benefits from the city but said he once needed it and appreciated having the option.

"But should it be offered? I don't know. That's what we need to talk about," Wehrli said. "I ran, not to get health care or $11,000 a year.

"Others have run because of the benefits and that upsets me," Wehrli said, "Personally, my biggest concern is the IMRF and pensions. I do my homework to a greater depth than others on the council and I cannot justify saying I worked 1,000 hours a year for this."

Councilman Paul Hinterlong, the least compensated council member, is the only one not taking the $1,200 stipend or benefits.

"It's good to be on the bottom. What can I say? I think we're compensated more than fairly," he said. "I'd have my cellphone and my laptop whether or not I had this job. Being reimbursed for that is just ridiculous."

According to city officials, the council established a mayoral salary and benefits package in 1983. City council minutes from 1985 show the council approved annual vacation and holiday pay, sick leave and medical benefits in accordance with established city policy. One year later a resolution was passed that codified council salaries and health benefits.

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