After months of discussion, DuPage County Forest Preserve District commissioners appear ready to cut the pay of future commissioners and presidents.
With the exception of forest preserve President D. Dewey Pierotti Jr., who abstained, and Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli, the district board directed staff Tuesday to prepare ordinances to cut commissioners' annual salaries from $53,500 to $50,000 -- the same amount DuPage County Board members receive.
The ordinance, proposed by Commissioner Joe Cantore, also would set the next president's salary at $75,000. Pierotti currently receives $112,258 in his position; he already has announced he will not seek re-election in November 2014.
"I brought this up last year and after further discussion I felt it was appropriate to draft another ordinance, especially since we're going through some changes this year," Cantore said. "Revising our salary would put us more in line with what the original intent was and keep us in line with what the county board members make."
Commissioner Shannon Burns, who offered a similar proposal in March, said the work is as important as the county board and should be compensated similarly.
"The work that we do is equally important to the county board and the work that we do to serve the citizens is equally important," Burns said. "Based on that, I think we should receive equal pay to that of the county board."
Earlier this year the Illinois House rejected a plan to give voters the option to eliminate commissioners' pay.
Despite abstaining from the consensus tally, Pierotti said he supports cutting all of the salaries, including that of the president.
"When it was first set up, the salary of the forest preserve president was to be 85 percent of the county board chairman's salary. I think based on the situation now, with the presidency becoming more of a part-time position, that the salary should be reflected as such," he said.
"People are going to say sour grapes on that," he said, "but I think this board will be working much closer with the executive director when they hire a person for that job and they're going to rely more on that position than the president."
Wehrli did not support Cantore's proposal because she submitted an amendment that was not considered by her fellow commissioners.
"I'm recommending (salaries of) $45,000 a year and that may still be too high. There are municipalities that have mayors and councilmen representing much larger budgets and people handling equally complex issues that receive far less compensation and they're coming at it from the approach of public service," she said.
"And, by the way, we all have the option for IMRF benefits and we're asking taxpayers to continue to pay our health benefits and ongoing retirement and I find that objectionable," she said.
Cantore's proposal does not eliminate medical and pension benefits for future commissioners and the next forest preserve president.
Burns is the only commissioner who doesn't take the district's medical insurance. She and Wehrli haven't signed up for the pension.
If the suggested pay cuts and benefit changes are approved, the earliest they could take effect is after the November 2014 election.
As for county board members, they agreed last year to freeze their salaries through November 2016.