Trustees in Rosemont, Ill., voted to hike their mayor’s salary to $260,000 – a 53 percent raise.
Though the village is small in population, residents of Rosemont are going to have to pay a lot more for their executive in 2017.
Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens has been approved to get a 53 percent raise next year, hiking his salary to $260,000. Village trustees voted for the increase Aug. 10. The village only has about 4,200 residents, but Stephens has a staff of about 700 full-time and part-time employees, or about 16 percent of the village’s population, and a budget of $182 million.
By contrast, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the executive of a city of nearly 3 million people,makes about $216,000.
Rosemont is best known as a hub of restaurants, entertainment and hotels, which fuel most of its economy. The village benefits from visitors to Allstate Arena, which it owns and operates, nearby O’Hare Airport, retail shops and Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.
But in its relatively short, 60-year existence Rosemont has also been a hub of nepotism and political patronage.
As many as 10 members of the Stephens family have been on the village’s payroll concurrently since Donald E. Stephens founded the village in 1956. Donald Stephens served as mayor for more than 50 years before he died in 2007, when his son Brad took over the helm.
Current Police Chief Donald Stephens III took over his position in 2013 after his father, Donald Stephens II, who had been working for the village since graduating from high school in 1972, retired from the post and became public safety superintendent.
Mark Stephens, a son of Donald E. Stephens and owner of a local cleaning business, has been paid nearly $4 million by the village for his cleaning services, and Christopher Stephens, Donald II’s son, has earned a hefty, $250,000 annual salary as the executive director of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
The family list goes on. Three of the founding mayor’s nephews have worked as public works or public safety employees within the last decade, earning salaries as high as $98,000. Karen Stephens, the wife of one of those employees, is also the director of Rosemont Park District.
Rosemont is a prime example of politicians operating to benefit themselves – and sticking taxpayers with the tab. While the Stephens clan enjoys six-figure taxpayer-funded salaries, the median household income in Rosemont is about $34,000. And this is happening in an area with one of the highest tax burdens in the country, thanks to an astronomically high sales tax and Illinois’ record-high property taxes.
Brad, Donald II and Christopher are also members of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which has pension benefits growing far faster than the rate of inflation, and to which taxpayers contributed 2.6 times what the workers themselves put in as of 2014.
Unlike Rosemont’s lucky mayor, few Illinoisans working in the private sector receive salary increases of more than 50 percent. In fact, Illinois’ personal income growth since the Great Recession started is the worst in the Midwest and the second-worst in the country, rising by an average of just 0.7 percent per year.
Like the paycheck complaints of state lawmakers whose budget gamesmanship forced social service providers and other vendors to go without pay for months, Rosemont reveals the disconnect between Illinois’ political class and the taxpayers who are struggling under its rule.