At least two Chicago alderpersons have chosen to forgo a 2.24% pay raise set to go into effect next year, according to documents received by the city’s budget office and obtained by WBEZ.
Alds. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, 33rd Ward, and Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward, both submitted signed affidavits Sept. 15 to the Office of Budget and Management indicating their decision to not receive the automatic salary increase – which is tied to the rate of inflation.
WBEZ obtained the forms through an open records request after the Office of Budget and Management said it would not be releasing the names of which elected officials rejected or accepted the raise – something the office has routinely disclosed in the past.
Instead, the office said details of each elected official’s decision would be included in Mayor Brandon Johnson’s proposed budget to be unveiled next month.
The highest-paid alderpersons are set to make roughly $145,970 next year under the pay increase, and officials had a Sept. 15 deadline to inform the budget office if they would be rejecting the raise.
The Office of Budget and Management noted in its response Friday to WBEZ’s records request that the forms were the only responses received to date, and stressed that, “All aspects of the FY2024 budget have yet to be finalized.”
But an Office of Budget and Management spokesman on Friday would not clarify if the office received additional responses from elected officials and said it is not accurate to say the lack of affidavits means the remaining 48 alderpersons, mayor, city clerk and treasurer have elected to receive the automatic 2.24% raises.
Instead, the spokesman said the office stands by its previous statement:
“Details of each elected official’s selection will be made available in the budget to be released by the Mayor to City Council in mid-October,” the statement read. “Just like all items in the Mayor’s budget recommendation, City Council members have the opportunity to propose amendments for consideration by the full body, with salary and wage determinations made final once the budget is passed and appropriated.”
Sigcho-Lopez, whose salary will remain at $142,776, said Friday he chose not to accept the pay raise in a show of solidarity with workers who are fighting for higher wages, citing a proposal before City Council to eliminate the so-called “subminimum wage” for tipped workers.
Sigcho-Lopez said he “wanted to signal to our constituents that we are interested in being public servants, to be accountable, but more than anything else, to fight for dignified salaries for all working people across the city.”
A spokesman for Johnson has declined to say whether the mayor accepted the raise or whether Johnson plans to make changes to the automatic pay escalators. The spokesman also reiterated details would be forthcoming in Johnson’s budget proposal next month. Johnson’s current $216,210 salary is set to increase by roughly $4,800.
A spokeswoman for City Clerk Anna Valencia said last week the clerk plans to accept the raise, increasing her annual salary by a little over $3,600 to $164,628.
City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, who has paused her anticipated bid for Congress amid allegations she abused her office’s power, currently earns $161,016 annually and is set for the same increase. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on whether she plans to take the pay bump.
Alderpersons implemented a system for annual pay increases tied to the rate of inflation in 2006. Under a budget ordinance Mayor Lori Lightfoot implemented, the mayor, city clerk and treasurer now also receive annual pay raises that are tied to the rate of inflation – with a cap of 5%.
Whether to accept the annual raise has set up a political conundrum for elected officials, whose constituents are dealing with inflation and rising costs. During election season last year, 17 alderpersons declined nearly 10% raises.
Alderpersons’ pay varies, with the 31 highest-paid members currently making $142,776 compared to Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward, who is the lowest-paid at $115,560, according to the most recent publicly available city data.
Tessa Weinberg covers Chicago government and politics for WBEZ.