Nonunion staff in Naperville could receive up to 3% merit raises next year plus a 1% bonus to be handed out only in 2023 as a compromise after the Naperville City Council was evenly divided over pay increases.
For the past month, the council has been poring over a $603 million budget for next year set for approval Dec. 6.
The final sticking point at the recent final budget workshop involved pay raises for nonunion staff. Union wage increases were negotiated through the various collective bargaining agreements.
Because Patty Gustin, who is stepping down from the council after being elected to the DuPage County Board in District 5, won’t be at the budget adoption meeting, a compromise between the four members favoring staff-recommended 4% raises and the four preferring 3% raises had to be reached.
The difference amounts to $300,000.
Mayor Steve Chirico said his concern was the compounding effect the added 1% would have on future budgets and long-term pension benefits for city employees.
“This is something that will stay with us,” he said.
Councilman Benny White countered that residents are customers, and it’s the staff who deal with those customers.
“I like for them to be proud of the fact that they work here in Naperville, and they’re getting paid a fair wage and so on,” White said. “Those are the folks who are in front of the residents.”
Councilman Ian Holzhauer agreed, saying staff has supported the city and its citizens, and a 4% raise was a vote of confidence in their work.
“Nobody’s saying our staff isn’t worth that,” Councilman Paul Hinterlong said, but it’s also about fairness.
“I think 3% is fair,” he said. “Last year I thought 3% was too much and I didn’t vote for it. This year I think I could live with 3%.”
Another consideration, Councilwoman Theresa Sullivan said, is the city needs to be competitive with wages.
“I don’t want to be kind of penny-wise and pound-foolish,” Sullivan said.
A compensation study, which is proposed in the new budget, will help the next council make more educated decisions, she said.
In the interim, Sullivan said she’d support the 4% suggested by staff in the budget.
Councilwoman Jennifer Taylor Bruzan added that while she saw no malfeasance, she found it odd that the same staff who helped negotiate union contracts that led to higher wages is now requesting a pay hike for themselves.
As a compromise to ensure the budget gets approved, Councilman Patrick Kelly proposed the 3% merit increase with a 1% bonus that would only apply to 2023 and not affect long-term retirement calculations.
In a final straw poll, six on the council supported the deal. Hinterlong and Paul Leong were the only council members to dissent.