Increase Transparency: Post Employee Salary and Benefits
When I first raised the issue of the ridiculously generous pension DuPage County Board Members receive (and which they recently voted to continue to receive), many DuPage County residents responded in outrage. Outraged not only at this perk—virtually unheard of for private sector part-time workers—but outraged that they didn’t know. People wondered how they could find out about the salaries and perks that other DuPage County elected officials and employees receive.
While this information is accessible—it is not easily accessible. Which is the way many career politicians want to keep it. Frankly, it’s better for these politicians to keep public payrolls and pensions secret from taxpayers so that they can continue to dole out well-paid publicly funded jobs as rewards to family, friends and campaign donors and supporters.
It’s time for that to end. We need to increase transparency in our County government. The Illinois Policy Institute has a 10-Point Transparency Checklist here. Thus far in the campaign, I’ve been the only candidate to sign the Illinois Policy Institute’s Transparency pledge. While DuPage County has come a long way toward transparency in the past few years, DuPage County still falls short in a few key areas. This week, I’ll highlight several of these areas. Today, we start with Salary and Benefits transparency.
DuPage County’s website should contain easily accessed compensation information for each individual employee including Wages, Salary, Overtime, Health, Dental, Life, Pension, etc. This isn’t to embarrass any employees but simply because the people who pay the salaries and benefits have a right to know what’s being paid.
Besides, just as they are with most businesses, salaries and benefits make up the largest budgeted expense for most local governments. They also contain perhaps the biggest misnomer: that government employees are poorly paid. Indeed, the opposite is true. The Illinois Policy Institute recently released a report showing that "compensation per local government employee averaged $63,100, which is 12 percent more than the private sector worker average of $56,500. Much of the difference was in employer-paid benefits, which were more than 1.5 times that of private employees. Local government employees received 4 percent more in wages and salaries than private employees."
Access to salary and benefit information is key to understanding this gap between public and private compensation. The Villages of Orland Park and Hoffman Estates do a good job of providing this kind of information.
Later this week: How DuPage County can improve transparency regarding County Contracts, Lobbying and Nepotism.