Springfield's City Council had to change city code to approve pay raise

Springfield City Council had to change city code to approve pay raise (Rachel Droze)

Springfield aldermen that take office next year will be eligible for pay raises starting in 2020, but in order get that raise, City Council had to change city code first.

The mayor, city clerk and city treasurer will also be eligible for pay raises. It’ll be their first pay raise in four years and the first raise for aldermen in eight years.

Before each election, Springfield’s City Council sets salaries for the elected city officials.

This year, that should’ve happened before Sept. 19, which is 30 days before candidates file to run, but officials waited too long to act.

"It would have been good to make it earlier,” Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin said. “Then we would not have had to amend our city code."

Ward 8 Alderman Kris Theilen, who sponsored the pay-raise ordinance, said he made a request for it to be drafted back in August.

Theilen said the mayor’s office didn’t give him the drafted ordinance until after the deadline had passed.

The city said if the council didn’t amend the code, they wouldn’t have been able to approve a pay raise for elected officials until 2023.

The change made to the ordinance moved the salary approval deadline to five days before the end of a candidate filing period instead of 30 days before the start of a candidate filing period.

This year, that new deadline fell on Nov. 21, one day before it was voted on by City Council.

"We modified our city code rule so we wouldn't get into a trick box of a 12-year freeze,” McMenamin said.

Right now, aldermen make $15,454 a year.

McMenamin said the city needs to make elected positions more appealing and can do so by raising the salary.

"Not just the very wealthy should be able to run for alderman,” McMenamin said. “Those on modest incomes that need to supplement their modest income should be able to run."

Ward 6 Alderwoman Kristin DiCenso voted against the ordinance.

She said she didn't get into this for the money.

“This is a job you take because you care about your ward, you care about the city of Springfield. You don't care about the pay,” DiCenso said.

The raises are based on the consumer price index and are capped at 1.75 percent.

If they do reach that cap and everyone gets a raise, it'll cost the city an extra $8,083.95 for that first round of raises.

Theilen said he hopes future councils will learn from this mistake and won’t let salary approvals slip through the cracks again.

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