BGA Revamps and Updates Public Salaries Database

New catalog puts payrolls for 1,800 government bodies and more than 500,000 public employees into greater context.

The Better Government Association has revamped one of its most popular features, the database of state and local government employee salaries across Illinois, into a sleek new catalog that places the numbers into greater context.

The new “Illinois Public Salaries Database” is the result of more than 18 months of work rethinking how we handle salary data to make it more precise, easier to navigate and useful. We did it with the help of DataMade, the Chicago-based civic technology company that focuses on using public data to build open-source technology.

The BGA collected employment records for 2017 from more than 1,800 units of government across Illinois — including the entire state government, most of the state’s counties, hundreds of cities, towns and villages, universities, schools, townships, libraries, fire protection districts and more — and put them all in one place.

In all, the database includes pay information for more than 500,000 workers on public payrolls.

For the first time, the database includes not just annual salaries but also extra pay such as overtime and bonuses paid to employees. It also includes a link to raw spreadsheets obtained by the BGA through the Freedom of Information Act from government bodies and used to form the foundation of the database.

The utility of the revamped database goes well beyond a basic search for the pay of any particular government employee. Now you can also:

  • View total payroll of government agencies as well as departments within them; compare the median salary at government agencies throughout the state with those of similar sizes and purpose.
  • View the distribution of salaries within an agency.
  • Search salaries by types of public bodies such as school districts, libraries or park districts, as well as determine the total number of paid positions for each.
  • Compare how the salary of an individual compares to that of co-workers within the same department, or even how the overall pay for the department of one government body compares to another.

One goal of the new database is to make pay information more accessible for not just casual users but also journalists and academics. If it is used as a source of work, the BGA asks that it be credited.

A central element of the BGA’s mission is to educate the public about how their tax dollars are spent. In that spirit, the database remains a work in progress that will be regularly refreshed and improved. So, we encourage users to come back frequently to check for updates.

Anyone with questions is encouraged to contact the BGA’s Data Coordinator Jared Rutecki at jrutecki@bettergov.org or at 312-821-9032.