CHICAGO — Cook County leads the state in the highest-paid government workers, according to information posted by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR).
The web post by the organization analyzed annual payroll expenditures in Illinois’ 102 county government counties using 2015 county government financial reports and U.S. Census data.
Of the 60,000 government workers employed throughout Illinois, Cook County exceeds any other county in the state, paying an average salary of $64,378 to its government workers, according to the ICPR. This is further amplified by a per capita payment of $307 a year. The average in Illinois is $224 per capita per year, according to the report.
“Bloated public payrolls and highly compensated public employees are a statewide problem,” Adam Andrzejewski, founder and CEO of OpenTheBooks.com, told the Cook County Record. “The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's study on county public employee pay is just the latest amplification. Illinois is broke because there are more public employees costing taxpayers more in pay, perquisites and pension. There is no end in sight.”
The salaries provided to Cook County government workers are nearly double the average salary of all the counties in the state, according to the study. ICPR listed the average reported salary in Illinois for a government worker at $34,167.
Cook County isn’t alone in its above-average expenditures for government employee salaries. Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Will, Randolph, Kendall and Kane counties all averaged above $50,000, according to ICPR.
OpenTheBooks.com has also done studies on wages of government workers. It has said that in Cook County alone, over 1,800 government employees make over six figures.
OpenTheBooks.com specifically mentions that an animal control officer in Cook County makes $105,000.
“At OpenTheBooks.com, we found that the new minimum wage for 56,000 Illinois public employees is $100,000-plus,” Andrzejewski said. “The vast majority of these highly compensated public employees work in the six-county Northern Illinois area. In Cook, Lake, DuPage, Will, Kane and McHenry counties, property taxes now rival mortgage payments. This is unsustainable.”
In the report by ICPR, the lowest average salary in the state came in at $7,685 for Edwards County. Mercer, Schuyler, Henderson, Hardin, Scott, Pope, Menard, Marshall and Brown counties also were below the average state salary for their government workers.
Although the report by ICPR doesn’t take into account pension payments, health care or other benefits for government employees, those have also been blamed for Illinois’ budget problems as some consider these benefits unwarranted.
“There is real public pension envy in Illinois,” Andrzejewski said. “The public sector has benefit buckets and perks that just don't exist in the private sector.”
To eliminate the excessive spending in Cook County and across the state, Andrzejewski calls for a tax cap, which would put a cap on salary spending and control pension spending as a result.
“Illinois needs a statewide property tax cap,” Andrzejewski said. “Hard caps on property taxes with everything under the cap - no exceptions - will stop the excessive salary spiking and pension padding that has gone on for far too long.”