Burr Ridge Village Board freezes village administrator’s salary

Burr Ridge Village Administrator Steve Stricker (left) sits next to Mayor Mickey Straub at the  Village Board meeting where  trusttes opted to freeze his salary for the year. | Kevin Beese/For Sun-Times Media
Burr Ridge Village Administrator Steve Stricker (left) sits next to Mayor Mickey Straub at the Village Board meeting where trusttes opted to freeze his salary for the year. | Kevin Beese/For Sun-Times Media

Burr Ridge’s village administrator is having his salary frozen for this fiscal year, but will receive a $1,000 bonus from the municipality as a token of appreciation for his efforts.

Steve Stricker will get the bonus on top of his $172,000 salary and $500 per month car allowance, according to Mayor Mickey Straub.

“As much as we do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, we need to put a freeze on his salary level,” Straub said. “But we wanted to give him a little something because we do appreciate him.”

Both union and non-union village employees were given a 2 percent increase as part of their contracts for this year. Straub said giving Stricker, whose contract is always voted on separately, a similar 2 percent hike was not even part of board discussions. The mayor said some talk was given to a 1 percent pay hike for Stricker.

But, in the end, “the general consensus was that the board is worried about public pay and public pensions,” Straub said. “There was a feeling that the village administrator is above average on the pay scale.”

The vote to freeze Stricker’s salary and only give him the bonus came after a closed-session meeting Tuesday. The vote was 3-2 in favor of the salary freeze and bonus, with Trustees Guy Franzese, Al Paveza and Janet Ryan Grasso voting in favor of the measure. Trustees Diane Bolos and Leonard Ruzak voted against the measure. Trustee John Manieri was not in attendance.

Ruzak said Wednesday that he and Bolos voted against the bonus for completely different reason.

“I felt he was entitled to the full increase like everyone else. There was no reason ever given for him not to receive the same increase,” Ruzak said. “We evaluated him and he met all the qualifications. I do not understand why we are not treating him the same as everyone else.

“He has been running the village for 25 years and now certain officials want to change things without giving reasons.”

Bolos could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but both Straub and Ruzak felt her vote was based on her view that the village needs to tighten its belt to avoid future deficits. Bolos was outspoken during the recent budget review process, stating that cuts need to be made now to avoid problems in future years.

Prior to the board going into closed session, resident Alice Krampits said trustees should consider freezing Stricker’s salary and cutting his car allowance.

“As a taxpayer I feel his current salary is more than adequate,” Krampits said.

Krampits said many surrounding villages pay much lower salaries to their administrators. She noted Bolingbrook cut its village manager position and had the finance director and his assistants run the village.

“At this time our village is looking at major deficits down the road with a police station to pay for and money that is owed to the police pension fund,” Krampits said. “So, our budget really isn’t balanced.”

Krampits noted Stricker’s salaries rivals that of the governor.

“I understand that the person in the administrator’s role wears many different hats as there are a variety of responsibilities,” Krampits said. “However, the state of Illinois has 13 million people and a governor that makes $180,000. Burr Ridge has only 10,500 people and a budget of only $17 million. Yet, we are paying a salary of almost the same as the governor.”

Ruzak said such comparisons are apples and oranges.

“Look at all the fringe benefits the governor has,” Ruzak said. “He has a mansion to live in, planes, a food allowance, armed guards.”

Krampits noted last year legislation was pushed that would have reduced state aid to municipalities whose elected officials grant salary and compensation packages that exceed the governor’s salary of $180,000. She said that is something the village would need to worry about if the legislation ever passed.

Straub said the pay freeze is not a reflection on the job Stricker is doing, but a growing concern among board members that public pay and public pensions need to be reined in. He said Stricker’s pay is about average among DuPage administrators, but it’s “high by anyone’s standards.”

He said Stricker continues to leads the village’s day-to-day operations in an outstanding fashion.

“I think he is doing a great job. He is a great asset to the village,” Straub said. “”Some credit for how well Burr Ridge has done in the past 25 years has to go to him. But we cannot pay people on the past. We have to pay them on today’s reality.”

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