Longtime Champaign attorney’s compensation rose $100,000 before retirement; Total compensation for all city staff rose 4.5%

By Yuzhu Liu / For CU-CitizenAccess

March 16, 2023

Champaign city building on 102 N Neil St. Screenshot from Google Street View.

Before retiring last May, Champaign’s City Attorney Frederick Stavins’s compensation rose about $100,000 compared with the previous fiscal year, data shows.

The total compensation report, published annually, lists the salaries and benefits for all city employees. The 2022 report shows City Attorney Frederick Stavins had the highest salary at $272,927, which is $92,474 more than his previous year’s salary.

His total compensation of $324,230 — a $100,513 increase over the previous year — was composed of the salary, plus $24,559 paid toward his pension and $12,013 for health insurance, $11,330 for social security, and $3,107 for Medicare, and about $400 listed as other. In the previous year, his total compensation was $223,716.

The city Human Resources department said his earnings hike was actually his retirement payout for unused vacation and sick time. Employees can receive a large increase in pay in their last year of employment because of that policy. Stavins retired from his position on May 20, 2022. He worked for Champaign for over 40 years and was the longest-serving city attorney in its history.

Stavins’s pay increased so sharply because he received a cash payout for his accrued 400 vacation hours and 711 sick leave hours at his hourly rate of $89.74, Champaign’s Assistant Human Resources Director Elizabeth Borman said. This information is not separated out in the compensation reports because they only list that year’s accrued vacation and sick days, and they don’t indicate when payouts are included in an employee’s salary.

Such an increase isn’t even the limit according to the city’s non-bargaining unit handbook. Sick leave is capped at 1,200 hours, which is 150 work days. Vacation hour limits depend on tenure, but the max accumulation is 400 hours, or 50 work days, for both exempt and non-exempt employees, and only 50% can be carried over year-to-year to encourage use.

Borman said the vacation and sick time payouts “typically funded by savings generated from the position vacancy.”

She also said, “In addition, we typically budget a specific amount for leave payouts that are not offset by savings generated from the vacant position. The amount that we budget is $250,000 annual.”

Overall, the cost of employees for the City of Champaign rose $2.9 million in 2022, going from $63.8 million in fiscal year 2021 to $66.7 million in fiscal year 2022, a 4.5% increase. The city paid 499 employees in 2021 and 536 in 2022.

Reports show little change to median salaries and compensation

Stavins also has the highest total compensation at $324,230. Second to Stavins is Deputy Police Chief Thomas Petrilli, who also receives the highest pension at $123,321 as part of his total compensation of $293,303.

Only two other employees were listed with salaries of more than $200,000. They were City Manager Dorothy David at $227,439 and Property Evidence Technician Douglas Wendt at $202,515.

David made $217,178 in fiscal year 2021, and Wendt made $128,665 as a police officer. Their benefits in 2022 totaled $274,150 for David and $291,754 for Wendt.

The median salary for all 536 Champaign employees is $90,108, a slight increase of $899 from the previous year. However, data shows a slight decrease when taking benefits and other earnings into account, as the median total compensation for Champaign employees has decreased from $124,670 to $119,431, a drop of $5,239.

Overall, 87 employees have total compensation of over $200,000, an increase from 57 in the previous fiscal year and making up about 30% of the money paid to all Champaign employees.

David, with the second-highest salary, ranks sixth among the top-compensated employees. Besides Stavins and Petrilli, other employees with a compensation higher than David are Property Evidence Technician Douglas Wendt at $291,754, Police Lieutenant Aaron Lack at $282,334 and Fire Captain Christopher Zaremba at $281,443.

David makes $11,253 under “other earnings.” More than half of Champaign employees receive payments under this category, totaling $1,390,158.

According to Champaign, other earnings “may include various types of earnings, such as contractual bonuses and residency incentives.”

The median salary for the 52 standard firefighters in Champaign is $96,592, a decrease of $1,460 from the previous year. The highest-paid firefighter is Jesse Rivera with a salary of $169,614, and he is the highest-compensated firefighter at $224,220. In the previous year, there were 51 firefighters and the median salary was $98,052. 

The median salary for the 73 standard police officers is $98,943, a decrease of $1,023 from the previous year. The highest-paid officer Timothy Atteberry earned $179,378, and he is the highest-compensated officer at $250,832. In the previous year, there were 70 police officers and the median salary was $99,966.

The 44 employees who don’t have health insurance are mainly interns, laborers, law clerks and other part-time employees, including a few technicians and police officers among them. The median health insurance compensation for the remaining employees is $7,809, while the median medicare is $1,202.

Two employees are tied for the most earned vacation days at 34.97, while only one employee has the most earned sick days at 19.94. Overall, the median earned vacation days is 11 days, while the median earned sick days is 9. In Champaign, sick days can be converted into a cash payment.

Four employees are given a vehicle allowance, with the highest being $649 for Building Safety Supervisor Randy Smith. Assistant City Attorney Nancy Rabel is the only employee assigned moving expenses, costing $1,287.

“Moving expenses may be offered as part of a competitive total compensation package and are dependent on a number of criteria specific to that recruitment, such as the difficulty of filling the position,” Borman said.