bosch makes a 6" sander that has both an aggressive and a finish mode, just like the rotex. It is about half the cost. A 40 grit disc on aggressive mode will get you moving along.
Chemical strippers work well, but then there is the problem of removing the residue and recured finish from all the grooves and beading, if there is any.
A first pass with (before sanding) with carbide paint scraper will help get the varnish off (and keep your disc from clogging) but be careful because pine is easy to gouge
Mid 70s sounds about right. Chicago is a strong union town so most jobs are unionized and pay decently.
Teachers in our suburban K-12 district earn up to $110k, but that is specialist with a masters and 20+ years.
The suburban high school teachers can do a little better. That never made sense to me, other than there are more male HS teachers and wages and there is a lot of gender bias in wages.
In the city (chicago public schools), the grade schools and high schools are a single district with harmonized wages. They are generally paid in the middle, above the poorer auburband districts, well above the catholic schools, but below some of the more affluent suburbs. Its all public record. My mother was making about $65k when she retired from CPS ten years ago. She taught in one of worst areas of the city (west englewood, one of those places with a few murders a week).
Cops and firefighters are paid similarly to the teachers in Chicago and the larger suburbs, from what I understand. But they have more opportunities for overtime.