Elmhurst Park District could tweak employee compensation ranges

Consultant reveals district pays more for some positions, less in others

Old York Road
(Elmhurst Titan file photo)

ELMHURST – A recently completed review of Elmhurst Park District employees’ salaries hinted changes could be afoot in the years ahead.

After several delays, the district last year enlisted the services of GovHR, a Northbrook-based consultancy firm, to conduct a top-down review of full-time staffers’ salaries across all positions and analyze how they compare to similar park districts in the state.

The Elmhurst Park District has not conducted a compensation study in nearly two decades. Although a few tweaks have been made over the years, Executive Director James Rogers said the last thorough review took place in 1998.

“We’ve gotten to a point where the market has moved past us a bit,” Rogers said, pointing to the rationale behind the study.

The big-picture end result of the recent review revealed the district pays more than most of its peers in about half of its full-time positions. But it also pays less for the other half.

As the district makes future budgetary decisions, Joellen Earl, CEO of GovHR, said she recommends officials freeze employees’ salaries on the high end of the comparable spectrum in lieu of cutting pay as a knee-jerk reaction to the data.

But Earl also recommended park officials consider bringing employees on the low end of the spectrum up to a higher salary range that is in line with other districts.

Earl, who came before the park district’s board of commissioners on May 22, discussed a few highlights of the extensive study, which was released after the meeting in an 80-page document. GovHR spoke with Elmhurst Park District’s 47 full-time employees amid its fact-finding exercise.

After reviewing statistical data, Earl said her firm found 23 park districts in the state that were similar to Elmhurst. Requests for salary information were sent to each of the districts, and Earl said GovHR received an 83 percent response rate.

“We were very pleased,” Earl said. “The fact we got the response rate we did is terrific. We got a lot of data.”

Comparable park districts included Oak Park, Palatine, Wilmette and Woodridge.

The board did not take any formal action at its most recent meeting, though several officials said they appreciated the data, which could be used as an important tool in creating future operating budgets.

As she discussed how park official should use the data, Earl was quick to point out the scope of her company’s work was independent of individual merit pay.

“This places a value on the jobs,” Earl said. “You want to protect the integrity of the system.”

Rogers said the park district is planning a smaller scale off-shoot analysis for the array of part-time positions as well.

The park board at its most recent meeting also:

• Adopted an ordinance that set in motion plans to dispose of unwanted district-owned property through donation, sale or trade-in.

Most of the items scrubbed from the district’s property inventory is office equipment, though there are a few items that are visible to the general public.

Commissioners, for example, gave staffers the green light to do as they please with six tennis court nets at Berens Park, a bench at Eldridge Park and a house and garage and its contents at district-owned property at 207 N. Hampshire Ave.

As for the latter item, the park district in January purchased the Hampshire Avenue residential property for $415,000 as part of a strategic objective of increasing open space in the community.

• Discussed behind closed doors a potential “purchase or lease of real property for the use of the district.” After hashing over the item for more than an hour, the board reconvened in open session and took no action on the proposal.

Statutes give the park district the authority to discuss issues in closed session in narrow circumstances, such as bargaining for land purchases.