Chicago aldermen, Mayor Brandon Johnson and other elected officials have arrived at the autumn moment of truth to decide whether to accept annual raises tied to inflation.
Largely free from the political danger they faced last fall of giving themselves historically huge pay hikes as they headed into elections, considerably more council members are set to accept the pay bump in 2024.
Just two of Chicago’s 50 aldermen have officially said no thanks to the relatively modest 2024 bumps of 2.24%, according to records the Tribune received through an open records request.
Near South Side Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th, and Northwest Side Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, 33rd, both progressives on the council, were the only two members to officially reject the money by a Sept. 15 deadline, according to the city Budget Office. The percentage of the raise is based on the consumer price index, which has recently slowed its ascent.
Compare that with last year, when 17 aldermen turned down a massive 9.6% increase for their 2023 checks, as inflation was skyrocketing and many of them were just months from reelection contests where potential opponents would have had a ready-made cudgel to try to punish them with voters.
The top-paid aldermen who accept the raises for 2024 will see their salaries go up by $3,190 to about $145,970. For 2023, the highest earners on the council who took the raises made an additional $12,530 each.
Johnson, city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin and Clerk Anna Valencia are for the first time also in line for automatic pay bumps starting Jan. 1 thanks to a provision included by then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the 2023 budget.
None of them has so far opted out of the raises, according to the Budget Office.
Johnson’s salary would go up more than $4,800, to $221,053. That would be the first pay increase for the Chicago mayor since Mayor Richard M. Daley gave himself a raise in 2006.
If Valencia and Conyears-Ervin accept the raise, they’ll each make $164,622 next year.
Aldermen and Johnson do face the task this fall of closing a 2024 budget deficit the new mayor has pegged at over $500 million, which could make them targets for residents’ ire if they raise taxes and fees to balance the books while also giving themselves salary bumps. But they may bet voters won’t remember it if they are on the next municipal election ballot in 2027.
In years past, City Hall released information to the public about which aldermen had decided by a predetermined September deadline to opt out of the raises.
But the Johnson administration initially declined to do so this fall. Instead, the Budget Office released a statement that said, in part, “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.”
“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,” the statement said.
So council members or Johnson could still announce over the next few months of the budget negotiations that they plan to forgo the raises, as aldermen have in years past.
Amid the outcry last year over the raises of nearly 10% for aldermen, members of the council introduced measures that would cap annual council salary bumps at 5%, freeze their salaries or reduce them. None of those proposals gained traction with the full 50-member body.