A sense of good cheer pervaded the last City Council meeting before the holidays, on December 14, where the aldermen finished weeks of discussing Mayor Daley’s 2006 city budget by making a few amendments and signing off on it 48 to 1. Fourth Ward alderman Toni Preckwinkle was the sole no vote; the 33rd Ward’s Richard Mell was absent.

Some aldermen, led by the Ninth Ward’s Anthony Beale, would still like to add another nickel to the budget’s 20-cent hike in cigarette taxes to cover the salaries of an additional staff member for each ward. Beale says his office receives around 100,000 constituent phone calls each year. “The job of alderman has really evolved over the years,” he says. “We now have e-mail and faxes. We haven’t upgraded our staff and offices to keep up with the times.” In the meantime they’ll just have to get by with what they’ve been allotted. Here’s how it breaks down.

Total 2006 City Council budget, including salaries, supplies, research costs, meeting costs, and ward-office expenses: $39,677,808

Percent increase from 2005: 7.99

Percent increase in the national consumer price index over the past year: 3.5

2006 salary for an alderman: $98,125

2005 salary: $94,805

Percent increase: 3.5

Percent increase in the council’s budget since the first city budget Richard M. Daley introduced as mayor, in 1990: 71.6

Percent increase in the consumer price index over the same period: 51.2

2006 salary for council members in New York City: $90,000

2006 salary for council members in Houston: $44,400

1990 aldermanic salary: $40,000

Value of 1990 aldermanic salary in 2005 dollars: $60,474

Number of pay hikes aldermen have given themselves since 1990: 6

Number of aldermen who’ve refused pay increases since 2002: 2

Salary taken by the two, Margaret Laurino of the 39th Ward and Eugene Schulter of the 47th Ward: $85,000

The past 16 budgets have included funds to cover the salaries of 50 aldermen, 3 full-time staffers for each, 10 administrators and aides to serve the council as a whole, and up to 25 staffers for the council’s finance committee, which oversees bonds, taxes, legal settlements, workers’ compensation, and council spending. But each of the council’s 19 committees also has a budget for “personnel services,” which committee chairmen use to hire more staff. Tom Allen, alderman of the 38th Ward and chairman of the committee on transportation and the public way, says the chairmen like having a lump sum for hiring because they need “flexibility.”

Number of salaried council staff, not counting aldermen, listed in the 2005 (and the 2006) budget: 184

Number (not counting aldermen) listed in November 2005 payroll records: 290

Number of salaried staff listed in 2006 for president pro tem Danny Solis, the alderman who presides over the council in the mayor’s absence: 4

Number for finance committee chairman Ed Burke: 27

Number of council staffers who earn more than aldermen: 6

2006 salary of the highest-paid council staffer, finance committee chief administrative officer Marla Kaiden: $148,452

Top 2005 salary not itemized in 2005 budget, for chief administrative officer Charles Lomanto: $106,572

Staff titles don’t always explain what the people who hold them do. Legislative aides for one alderman or committee may help research or even draft ordinances; other aides are essentially administrative or clerical assistants. (Most of them are paid under the “personnel services” line item.) One of the longest titles is assistant council committee secretary in charge of committee rooms. “They do a variety of different things for the entire City Council,” says Schulter.

Number of assistant council committee secretaries in charge of committee rooms in 2006: 2

Salaries for assistant council committee secretaries in charge of committee rooms: $57,036 and $61,188

Number of legislative aides listed in the 2005 (and the 2006) budget: 2

Number of salaried legislative aides listed in payroll records in 2005: 87

Top salary for legislative aides listed in payroll records in 2005: $78,828

The responsibilities of and funding for the council’s legislative committees, some of which have been consolidated, are also wide-ranging.

Number of committees in 2006: 19

Number in 1990: 27

Percent increase in funding for committee staffing and expenses since 1990: 61

2006 budget for the finance committee, the council’s biggest: $2,060,463

2005 finance committee budget: $1,927,084

2006 budget for the parks and recreation committee, the council’s smallest: $81,820

2005 parks and recreation budget: $74,816

2006 health committee budget: $84,816

2005 health committee budget: $77,614

1990 health committee budget: $100,800

1990 budget for the committee on ports, wharves, and bridges: $60,220

2006 budget: 0 (“Was it around after we settled Fort Dearborn maybe?” says Alderman Allen, whose transportation committee has taken over this committee’s responsibilities. He adds, “What the hell is a wharf?”)

The council budget also includes several pots of money for things such as “legal, technical, medical and professional services, appraisals, consultants, printers, court reporters, and other incidental contractual services” (a total of $3,206,042). As president pro tem, Solis can authorize dipping into one of them; the 50th Ward’s Bernard Stone, who holds the largely symbolic post of vice mayor, can authorize dipping into another and Burke, as finance committee chair, into two others.

2006 contingency funds to be spent at the discretion of the president pro tem: $4,000

2006 contingency funds to be spent at the discretion of the vice mayor: $104,970

2006 contingency funds to be spent at the discretion of the finance committee chair: $1,433,077

Total council funds directly controlled by Burke in 2006, including the finance committee budget and contingency funds: $3,493,535

There’s also a pot of money to cover honorary ceremonies held at the beginning of council meetings.

2006 budget for “Expense in connection with recognition and awards to citizens of Chicago for acts of heroism”: $1,000

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Laura Park.