By Bob Uphues
North Riverside's elected officials next month will reclaim a perk that was taken away from them in 2009 in the midst of a national economic crisis that threw the village's financial outlook for a loop, forcing officials to take out a $2 million loan so the village could pay its bills.
On Sept. 4, trustees voted 4 to 1 to reinstate a monthly stipend for the village's eight elected officials – the mayor, clerk and six trustees – which they can use on such things as cellphone bills, parking, mileage and any other expense related to their jobs as elected officials.
And in reinstating the stipend, trustees also decided to increase it from $80 to $100 a month.
"I think it's necessary," said Trustee Joseph Mengoni, North Riverside Village Board's finance chairman, who spoke to the Landmark via a call to his personal cellphone. "I use my cellphone for everything village-related.
"And just the cost of going to these events – the mileage, sometimes you have to pay $40 to park – it all adds up."
Elected officials will receive a $100 check each month beginning in October, which begins the village's third quarter for its fiscal year. While the stipend is meant to be used for village business-related expenses, use of the funds won't be tracked, according to Mengoni.
In addition to Mengoni, trustees Jason Bianco, Fernando Flores and Terri Sarro voted in favor of reinstating the stipend. Trustee Deborah Czajka voted against the stipend and Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos was absent from the Sept. 4 meeting of the board.
"It was strictly personal," said Czajka of her vote. "I didn't think we needed it. I don't attend many meetings where you need to pay for parking or for tickets."
The stipends will cost the village $4,800 for the rest of the 2017-18 fiscal year, which ends April 30, 2018.
The $100 stipend is in addition to the salary each elected official receives. North Riverside's trustees are paid $4,800 a year, while the mayor and village clerk are paid $6,000 annually.
At a North Riverside Village Board finance committee meeting in July, Trustee Jason Bianco raised the subject of increasing salaries for elected officials, something the village board appears likely to do as it prepares its budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
"I think the board will probably look at that," said Mengoni. "Salaries haven't been increased in a long time."
The last increase in elected officials' salaries appears to have been in the early 1990s. Elected officials in North Riverside are also eligible to participate in the health insurance program available to village employees. Presently, only one elected official, the mayor, participates in the health insurance plan.
It isn't unusual for elected officials, even in small towns, to be paid a salary, though it isn't a universal perk. Riverside's elected officials are not paid.
Brookfield's village president, meanwhile, is paid $9,567 per year, the clerk is paid $6,378 and trustees are paid $5,314. They do not receive any additional stipends.
And, since 1993, Brookfield's village code also has provided for elected officials' salaries to be increased 10 percent every four years. The last raise followed the election in April 2017.
If North Riverside trustees do approve an increase in salary for elected officials next year, it would not go into effect until after the 2019 municipal elections.