Which county governments have highest and lowest average salaries?

Mar 06, 2017


In recent years, there has been a growing effort in Illinois to better understand how the state’s many layers of local government, totaling nearly 7,000, can work together to serve Illinois residents. The 102 county governments in the state are a significant part of the puzzle, employing a total of about 60,000 workers on a full or part-time basis.

Each year, county governments submit financial reports to the Illinois Comptroller detailing their total expenditures on payroll, and the number of full and part-time employees they have. Using information from 2015 reports and U.S. Census data, the ICPR research team found:

  • average salaries for county employees
  • percent of full and part-time employees in each county
  • average amount spent by counties on annual payroll per capita

A full alphabetical list of this data for each Illinois county can be found here.

Average Salaries for County Employees
Cook county has the highest average employee salary at $64,378, which is nearly double the average salary for all 102 counties at $34,167. This number includes both full-time and part-time employees. Payroll information does not necessarily include matching pension payments, healthcare, or other benefits.

Ten Counties with the Highest “Average Salary” for Employees
Ten Counties with the Lowest “Average Salary” for Employees
Per Capita Payroll Cost of County Employees
On average, each Illinois county pays their employees about $224 per capita (the number of residents in the county) each year. It is important to note that significant portions of county payroll can be funded by sources other than tax revenue. County payroll budgets can sometimes include county-run nursing homes, hospitals, parks, or other public services. While total payroll per capita does not directly indicate the cost of county government for individual taxpayers, it provides a useful measure of the cost of county employees compared to the local population.Based on total payroll per capita, the size of county government ranges widely. Pulaski County pays the most, relative to their population, with a per-capita payroll cost of $649 per year, while Mercer County pays the least at $80 a year. Cook County spends more than average, at $307 a year.
County Payroll Expenditures Per Capita in Illinois
Ten Counties with the Highest “Per Capita” Payroll Costs
Ten Counties with the Lowest “Per Capita” Payroll Costs
Spending on payroll costs is a significant part of any county budget. The average county spends about $224 per capita annually on employee payroll, and has an average employee salary of $34,167. The counties with the highest per capita payroll spending budget up to $649 per capita annually, and have up to $64,000 in average salaries, based on payroll information provided to the Illinois Comptroller. It is also important to note the differences of total annual payroll expenditures from county to county, listed in the charts above.


Political Data Director Colin Williams, Research & Data Analysts Jessica Ditmars and Doziem Ugonna, and Policy & Communications Coordinators Sara Birchler and Emily Melbye contributed to this research.
All data is sourced from the Illinois Comptroller and U.S. Census Bureau. All data is for 2015, except for Union County and Williamson County, which only had 2014 financial reports available.


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