Poplar Grove trustee questions the need for pay raises for village's elected officials
Research supports Neeley Erickson’s contention that raising salaries for elected officials in Poplar Grove doesn’t necessarily lead to more qualified candidates or more productive work when in office.
In April, Erickson voted against a salary increase for the village president and its six trustees telling the Rockford Sun that she didn’t buy the rationale for the raises – that they will “add vibrancy to the community.”
“The argument is that the community will become more vibrant because we will have more talented people in office,” she said. “If the village has additional funds, those funds should be spent on improving parks, roads, water, and sewer infrastructure. Not giving future elected officials raises.”
With a 4-2 vote, the board doubled the president’s salary, from $10,000 to $20,000; and raised trustee salaries from $5,000 to $5,500. The increases take effect in 2019 for three trustees, and in 2021 for the other three trustees and the president. The president, moreover, received a $500 a month stipend in August that went into effect immediately.
“Back in 2012, the president took a big pay cut so we could afford an administrator,” Erickson said. “We still have the administrator.”
Village President Owen Costanza said that the vote to raise salaries was taken after months of research surveying other area local governments.
“Along with the raises, we cleaned up a lot of the ordinances and the duties of village employees,” he said.
He added that he has approached people in the village, many of them professionals, and none said they would take the president’s job at $10,000 a year.
“It’s a tremendous amount of work, weekends and nights and I run a full-time business," he said.
For at least one category of elected official, state lawmakers, higher salaries actually resulted in less work and more time spent on fundraising, according to a April 2018 study, “A Time to Make Laws and a Time to Fundraise?,” by Mitchell Hoffman of the University of Toronto and Elizabeth Lyons of the University of California, San Diego.
“We find a significant positive association between the level of pay and time spent fundraising,” the study said. “All else equal, when politicians are paid higher salaries, they spend significantly more time on fundraising, particularly on fundraising for themselves (as opposed to for their party). In contrast, higher salary also is associated with politicians spending less time on legislative activities and has no relation to time spent on constituent services.”