Niles Village Board votes to end salary freeze for trustee, mayor

By Igor Studenkov

For the Bugle

Village of Niles Board of Trustees voted unanimously to repeal a moratorium that kept the salary increases for the mayor and three of the most recently re-elected trustees from taking effect until April 30, 2019.

On Sept. 27, 2016, the village board approved the salary increases. Under the state law, salary increases can’t take effect until the officials’ terms are over. That means the increase would have kicked in for Mayor Andrew Przybylo and trustees George Alpogianis, Danette Matyas and John Jekot in 2017, while trustees Joe LoVerde, Denise McCreery and Dean Strzelecki wouldn’t get their increases until 2019. The moratorium was imposed to ensure that all of the trustees’ salaries would increase at the same time.

During the meeting, none of the officials commented on the reason behind the moratorium repeal. Przybylo subsequently told the Bugle that the officials reconsidered the rationale behind it, deciding that, with the term limits constraining trustees to three terms, repealing the moratorium would ensure that all trustees would get the increase over the course of two possible terms.

Until the Oct. 24 vote, the mayor’s salary was $4,000, while the trustees’ salaries are $2,500 a year. With the moratorium repealed, Przybylo’s salary went up to $11,400, while Alpogianis’, Matyas’ and Jekot’s salaries went up to $5,500

By comparison, the Morton Grove municipal code sets the mayor’s salary at $6,000 a year. The trustees’ salaries are set at $4,500 a year. The code also says that the village will reimburse the mayor’s and the trustees’ out-of-pocket expenses that are “incurred or reasonably expected to be incurred.”

Park Ridge salaries are more of a mixed picture. The mayor’s salary is $1,000 per month ($12,000 a year), while aldermen’s salaries are set at $100 a month ($1,200 a year).

Skokie’s municipal code doesn’t set the salaries, and the village board usually increases them once every few years. Following the 2017 election, the mayor’s salary went up from $32,200 to $35,000, while the trustees’ salaries went up from $8,760 to $9,500, respectively.

In most Chicago area suburban municipalities, a mayor doubles as a liquor commissioner. A Morton Grove mayor gets paid additional $2,000 for performing those duties, while Park Ridge, Niles and Skokie mayors aren’t paid anything extra.

During the 2013 municipal election, the village residents approved two term limits referenda – one launched by the village board and one launched by Niles activist Joe Makula. Since then, the village’s legal position has been that the former referendum is the one they would abide by. Under that referendum, officials can serve as trustees for no more than three terms. That would affect Trustee LoVerde, who was first elected in 2007 and won re-election in 2011 and 2015. This mean that he is the only trustee who would not have been able to benefit from the increase whether the moratorium was in place or not.

Meanwhile, McCreery and Strzelecki were first elected in 2015, so they are eligible to run for two more terms. Meanwhile, Jekot and Matyas were elected in 2013, so they would be eligible to run for one more term in 2021.

Alpogianis’ situation is more complicated. He was first elected trustee in 2009, but the fact that he had six battery convictions while a teenager forced him to resign soon after he took office, as felons cannot hold public office in Illinois. Alpogianis was pardoned by then-governor Pat Quinn in the summer of 2012, allowing him to run again and win the seat in 2013. Assuming only the fully served terms count toward the limit, he can run again for 2021 as well.

As Przybylo explained to the Bugle, the village board decided to repeal the moratorium so that all trustees not constrained by term limits would able to get raises for two out of three terms.

“It’s not about starting at the same time, it’s about having the same benefits over the period of service,” he said.

Pryzbylo himself was first elected mayor in the 2013 and won re-election in 2017. Under the board term limit referendum, he is only eligible to run for two terms. This means that, if the moratorium were still in place, he would not have been able to get a salary increase.

“Promise to Citizens” approved

The Village of Niles Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a new customer service policy during its Oct. 24 meeting.

According to the board meeting packet, the policy simply codifies the existing practices and ensures all residents know what they are. Copies of the policies will be posted in the village hall and other municipal buildings where residents get village services. The trustees praised the policy, saying it was good to have it all in writing.

The policy text is divided into two sections – the “customer service policy” and the “promise to citizens.” The former states that all village employees and elected officials “will provide professional, courteous, and timely response to the service and information needs of the public and, to the best of their ability, work to remedy citizen concerns.” The later states that employees will state their name and department while interacting with residents, that the government will be open and transparent, especially when it comes to municipal budget, the elected officials and employees will follow “ethical practices,” that the village government is “dedicated to quality of life, health and safety, and economic security through best practice initiatives” and will practice “fiscal responsibility, high productivity standards, and responsible management of municipal assets.”

The policy was signed by Przybylo and Village Manager Steve Vinezeano. The mayor noted that the document was developed with staff input.

“It was [writte] with the advice and consent on the staff.” Przybylo said. “They’re on board with it, and they feel like it’s right thing to do.”

Trustee Denise McCreery praised the policy.

“ I’d like to think we’re doing this currently, but I support it beign in writing,” she said.

Trustee Joe LoVerde described it as a “wonderful document.”

“It keeps us all aware,” he said.

 

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