The city of Chicago’s six-figure employee club keeps growing.
And more and more members of that club are taking home bigger paychecks than Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
That’s according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of city employee salaries. It covers the calendar year 2017 — the most recent numbers available that include a full accounting of all regular wages, overtime and a swath of specialty pay categories that many city workers can get.
In 2016, 13,767 city workers made $100,000 or more. The following year, the number rose to 14,823, the Sun-Times analysis found.
The six-figure earners accounted for more than 40 percent of the city workforce that year. Together, they were paid a total of nearly $1.9 billion.
That amounted to nearly 59 percent of the city’s $3.2 billion annual payroll, which included everyone from part-time crossing guards and librarians to high-ranking police officials and city lawyers.
Topping the city payroll for a second straight year was Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans, who stepped down last summer. Evans was paid $400,000. That included a $100,000 bonus in her contract for expanding and modernizing the city’s airports.
Evans was among 86 city workers — up from 36 the previous year — who made more than the $216,210 that Emanuel was paid in 2017.
That included 35 Chicago Fire Department employees and 46 in the Chicago Police Department, among them Supt. Eddie Johnson, who made $260,004.
Though Johnson is the city’s top-ranking police official, he wasn’t the highest-paid cop. Four of his subordinates made more.
Thanks to overtime pay, Sgt. John Foster and Detective Edward Heerdt more than doubled their salaries. Foster made $279,612, and Heerdt made $285,070.
Lt. John Dowd, who cashed in more than $181,000 in accumulated compensatory time off, was paid $300,657.
And an unnamed sergeant — City Hall withheld the names of 669 police employees who worked undercover — with a salary of $111,474 actually was paid $263,682, thanks to overtime and specialty pay.
Clarence Wisnar, a filtration engineer in the Department of Water Management, was paid more than $344,000, thanks largely to a $201,000 comp-time payout. Ivy Anderson, an assistant chief operating engineer in the same city agency, made $231,133, more than half of that from overtime.
Besides Evans, Wisnar and the four police employees, the city’s 10 highest-paid workers included four fire department employees: Deputy District Chiefs Jeffrey Horan, Barry Garr, David Dietz and Charles Maes. Horan made $275,673, Garr made $270,906, Dietz $265,381 and Maes $265,512.
None of those workers could be reached for comment.
Also among those making more than the mayor in 2017 was Ramona Perkins, a police dispatcher who more than doubled her $77,072 salary thanks to overtime and other payouts. Perkins was paid $218,833. She declined to comment.
As more city workers joined the $100,000 club and more were paid more than the mayor, overall city overtime increased just slightly compared to 2016, when city workers took home nearly $266 million in overtime pay. That inched up to about $275 million in 2017, still accounting for almost 9 percent of the city’s payroll.
Overtime actually decreased slightly in the fire department from $50.6 million in 2016 to $49.5 million in 2017. Police overtime ticked upward about 9 percent, from $143 million in 2016 to $156.7 million in 2017.
Kristen Cabanban, public affairs director for the Office of Budget and Management, said the city has conducted in-depth analyses and started scheduling monthly meetings with some departments aiming to help them decrease overtime.
“The City constantly monitors overtime in every department to ensure it is used effectively and has been committed to reducing the City’s overall spend in a responsible way that doesn’t sacrifice public safety or neighborhood services,” Cabanban said. “To address overtime costs, department managers have been asked to more closely scrutinize staffing patterns and identify time and attendance practices that can lead to overtime expenses.”
Cabanban noted the bulk of overtime payouts came from the police, fire and water departments, where many employees are guaranteed annual raises under collective bargaining agreements.
Officer Timothy A. Walter, one of the city’s most prolific writers of drunk-driving tickets, lost his longtime spot as City Hall’s overtime leader in 2017. But Walter still doubled his $96,020 salary, with $129,310 in overtime, with a total of $236,069 after additional pay boosts.
That lagged behind Foster’s $158,917 in overtime pay, Heerdt’s $144,926 in OT, the unnamed sergeant’s $130,332 and Detective Anthony Noradin’s $141,313.
Officials with the unions representing rank-and-file officers’ and firefighters’ didn’t return messages seeking comment.
In all, 24,730 employees got some overtime pay — about two-thirds of all city workers — with 814 making $50,000 or more in OT and 35 getting $100,000 or more.
Rank-and-file officers — who account for more than 11,000 of the police department’s 14,449 employees — got about 60 percent of the city’s overall OT pay. Firefighters accounted for about 18 percent.
County, state workers lag City Hall in 6-figure club
Overtime pay helped keep city workers well ahead of their counterparts in county and state government, the Sun-Times analysis found.
Of 23,335 Cook County workers, 2,892 made six figures in 2017 — about 16.7 percent of the workforce. Those workers made a total of about $551 million — roughly one-third of the county’s $1.7 billion payroll.
Among the 74,868 people who took home paychecks from the state, 8,495 were paid $100,000 or more — 11 percent of state employees. They made a total of nearly $1.1 billion — almost a quarter of the $4.5 billion state payroll.
Of 35,587 people who got a city paycheck, 14,823 made six figures — 40.5 percent of all city workers — for a total of almost $1.9 billion, close to 59 percent of the payroll.
The median city worker’s pay — half of all city employees made more, and half made less — was $93,243. That was well above the $69,400 median county pay and $59,300 median state pay.
By comparison, the median total Chicago household income in 2017 was $83,890, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Big rise in ‘specialty pay’
Even as City Hall saw a decline in overtime pay, the amount paid out under so-called specialty pay categories rose by nearly 50 percent, from $164 million in 2016 to more than $245 million in 2017.
The bulk of that, about 90 percent, went to police and fire employees. Those pay boosts included retroactive raises, “duty-availability” pay, uniform allowances, holiday pay and shift differentials.
More than 2,500 city workers — led by police employees — cashed in comp time. Those payments — to retired employees as well as current workers — came to about $29.4 million in 2014, with 10 employees buying back $100,000 or more in comp time.
There’s no cap on how much comp time police employees can accumulate. City Hall typically makes three yearly payments to cover what employees are owed when they retire. That practice has drawn scrutiny from City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who has urged city leaders to push in union contract negotiations to change that.
Five of the city’s 44 contracts with labor unions have been expired since the summer of 2017, including contracts with police and fire unions that are expected to result in tens of millions of dollars in retroactive pay raises.
Emanuel has urged the unions to consider the city’s dire financial situation and pension crisis as they negotiate. New deals aren’t expected to be reached until Emanuel’s successor takes office.
The benefits and overtime city employees receive largely are the result of labor contracts negotiated over a span of decades. The rationale has been that workers should be compensated for their unusual schedules and, in some cases, the dangers they face. Overtime isn’t counted when calculating city workers’ pensions.
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