The Naperville City Council doesn't plan to make any drastic changes to the pay or benefits of future councilmen.
After an hour-long discussion, the group gave preliminary approval to reducing the $1,200 annual cell phone and Internet stipend by $200 and lumping it into councilmen's salaries. They rejected proposed changes to health care and pension benefits.
"I personally say what we've got here, it works," Councilman Doug Krause said. "The bottom line here, it's a value to the citizens. I've never had a citizen tell me I'm being paid too much."
Councilmen currently earn an average base salary of just under $12,000 not counting the phone and Internet stipend. Five of the eight councilmen participate in the city's health insurance plan and all are in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund pension system.
The last major change to salaries was about a decade ago when the city started to tie increases to inflation.
Councilman Joe McElroy suggested reducing the cell phone and Internet stipend by $200 and combining it with councilmen's salaries, which the majority supported.
"Seems like over the years I've noticed there's different parts of the City Council compensation that annoy different people so we're getting rid of one of them tonight," he said.
That change, if formally approved at a future Council meeting, would go into effect in 2015. It was one of the few changes councilmen made despite others that were suggested.
Councilman Grant Wehrli said he does not believe councilmen should be participating in the pension system. He estimated his own pension, if he collects it between ages 55 and 85, would pay him more than $40,000 over that span, which he called "crazy."
"The city has been trying to be a champion of pension reform not only here locally, but down in Springfield trying to get pension reform," he said. "Now here we are talking about our very own pensions and all of a sudden it's like, whoa, no we meant the other guys' pensions."
But Councilwoman Judy Brodhead said the pension system councilmen are part of is not one that is part of the state's pension woes and because Wehrli is the youngest on the Council, other members won't likely be collecting as much as he will. She also said changes in state law have increased the time it takes new members to become vested and raised the retirement age.
"We're not talking about some huge possible future group that will have this very very long time of achieving the same kind of pension that you're talking about," she said.
The majority of the Council ultimately agreed to require councilmen to sign an affidavit swearing they worked the required 1,000 hours a year to participate in the pension system.
Councilman Steve Chirico, who is covered under the city's health insurance plan, suggested changes to the health insurance benefits, saying the benefit amount could be wrapped up into the salary to be fair to those who don't use the city's plan. He said having that benefit, whether as insurance or part of the salary, is important to maintain.
"I don't want to see us get into a situation where we put the salary level at such a number where we pigeonholed who can run for this Council, meaning someone who is independently wealthy or retired or on a pension themselves," he said. "That's not going to make for a very well-balanced Council."
Councilman Paul Hinterlong, who does not take city insurance, said he does not believe the benefit needs to be lumped in with the salary and no other councilmen expressed interest in doing so.
"I think the package is fair when we look at other communities and whether you take it or not that's your choice," Hinterlong said.
Changes discussed at the workshop impact the eight Council positions. Councilmen will discuss the mayor's compensation at a future meeting.