By Jean Lotus
How much should a village administrator be paid? This was the question on the minds of Forest Parkers in the past week, after compensation for Village Administrator Tim Gillian was discussed by the village council in both closed and open sessions over the past two months.
At the Jan. 14 council meeting, discussion turned vehement as Commissioner Mark Hosty asserted that Gillian was the 16th highest paid employee and clearly the best he's worked with of all four previous administrators.
Commissioner Rory Hoskins had leaked to the Forest Park Review what he considered an "obscene" $20,000 pay raise that Hosty proposed for Gillian during a closed session. The amount was never considered, as the other commissioners present complained it was too high.
But Mayor Anthony Calderone said in the Jan. 14 meeting that he instructed Vanessa Moritz, the village clerk, to compile a list of salaries from nearby municipalities for similar jobs. He also sent a letter to every mailing address in Forest Park assuring them that Gillian had not received a $20,000 raise.
"It would be absurd for me to agree to what would amount to a 20 percent pay increase for any employee of the village!" he wrote on Jan. 9. He criticized Hoskins and the Review for "irresponsible behavior" and said a direct letter was the "best way to negate the terrible ill effects [of public perception]."
Why is Tim Gillian the 16th highest-paid village employee? The reason appears to be because he's not a union member and is the least senior member of the non-union managerial staff, having worked only three years.
Of non-union managerial staff, Gillian is fourth out of five with a base salary of $101,302. But this is largely because he's a relative newcomer to the village payroll. Fire Chief Steve Glinke, who has led the department for a decade and also runs the Health and Public Safety Department, is paid a base salary of $124,832. Likewise, Deputy Chief Bob McDermott earns a base salary of $106,776, and has served in that role for 10 years. Police Chief Jim Ryan earns $114,531, having served for nine years and Deputy Police Chief Tom Aftanas earns $106,179 after six years. Public Works Director John Doss is paid $85,730, having worked for the village for more than 12 years.
Among the highest paid village employees are union members who have been on the force for many years. Six police sergeants and six firefighters (including three lieutenants) with seniority earn between $126,000 and $103,000.
Gillian was hired for $90,000 in 2009, and his pay soon increased by 10 percent to over $100,000.
Neighboring village administrators and managers earn more money but with bigger populations or higher median incomes and larger budgets. Forest Park's median household income, listed in the 2010 U.S. Census is $51,906. Forest Park median home value is $222,400. The population is listed as 14,228.
Village Administrator Eric Palm of River Forest (population 11,172) earns $120,367.04 in a village with a median income of $122,584 and a median house value of $602,800. Oak Park Village Manager Cara Pavlicek of Oak Park manages a 52,000 population municipality and is paid a base salary of $150,000. Brian Pabst of Berwyn earns a base salary of $102,000 managing a city of 56,000. North Riverside (pop. 6,672) Village Manager Guido Belmonte earns a base salary of $120,746 but has worked for the village for more than 10 years and started around $71,000.
More comparable might be Wauconda, population 13,656, where median income is around $70,000 and median home price is $235,000. Village Administrator Zaida Torres earned a $98,773 base salary in 2011. In Wood Dale, population 13,300, where median income is $63,285 and home price is $274,500, City Manager Jeffrey Mermuys earned base pay of $120,000 in 2011. He has worked for the municipality for seven years, including a stint as interim village manager and assistant village manager.
Transferability of skills
Professional village managers and village administrators often have a specific skill set and credentials that make their job transferable from one municipality to the next. Former Village Manager Michael Sturino started during the boom years in 2005 at a base pay of around $103,000. Sturino received a $20,000 pay raise between 2005 and 2006 and then another raise. His salary was up to roughly $138,000 in base pay when he left in 2008. But Sturino had a law degree and expertise in transportation and land use.
Typically, village managers and administrators work for a few years in one municipality and then hop to the next. For example, since he left Forest Park in 2000, former village manager James Thomas has served in Whitefish Bay, Wis.; Sterling, Colo.; and West Warwick, R.I.
Bill Barlow, village manager of Maywood (pop. 24,117), earns $105,000 and has also been manager of Winfield, Rolling Meadows and Xenia, Ohio. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree.
The salaries of public officials in Forest Park differ dramatically depending on the taxing body. Forest Park District 91 Superintendent Louis Cavallo earns a base salary of $188,349 and Asst. Superintendent/Finance Director Ed Brophy earns $122,815 in base salary, according to school documents. Both have advanced degrees and longtime experience in school districts. Park District of Forest Park Director Larry Piekarz earned around $109,000 in 2011 according to www.openthebooks.com.
Correction: This story has been corrected to accurately report the salary of Berwyn City Administrator Brian Pabst.