Raises approved: Mayor, County Council, others get big hikes

  • Raises approved Thursday

HILO — The Salary Commission approved raises up to 34.6 percent Thursday, while a County Council member has introduced a charter amendment to slow down the money train.

After some discussion about whether the mayor should be paid more than some department heads who are required to have licenses, training, education and experience, the commission voted 5-3 to give the mayor a $30,581 raise (23.2 percent) to $162,581, and the second-in-command, the managing director, a $34,607 raise (29.1 percent) to $152,611.

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The County Council chairman will get a 32.8 percent raise to $77,017, and other County Council members will get 34.6 percent more, to $70,008. The county clerk, legislative auditor and other positions also received raises. Those raises were approved 7-1.

The mayor and many top administrators last got raises in 2014, while others haven’t seen a raise in almost 10 years.

Commissioners said they had to make up for lost time with the big bumps, and they agreed to look at a second phase where raises would come more frequently, in smaller increments.

But Commissioner Milton Pavao, who voted no on both sets of raises, said it was just too big a hit.

“I think this is excessive, very excessive,” Pavao said. “It puts a burden on the finances and I don’t think it sends the right message.”

Other commissioners pointed to statements made earlier in the meeting by Finance Director Deanna Sako, who said the county had set aside a “provision for compensation adjustment” to prepare for union collective bargaining agreements this year. There should be enough money there, she said, for the management-level raises too.

Commissioners said they estimated best salaries being somewhere between what Maui pays and what the City and County of Honolulu pays. The county needs to be competitive, they said, if it wants to attract quality people.

The administration has had problems filling positions. The all-important Public Works director, for example, has been vacant since Sept. 1. The charter requires a licensed professional engineer in that position.

Commission Chairman Hugh Ono said after the meeting that commission members didn’t discuss Hawaii County’s lower cost of living or lower property values when deciding on the raises. Maui has a $705 million operating budget; Honolulu’s tops $2 billion. In comparison, Hawaii County’s budget is $491 million.

Raises go into effect March 1, and together with raises approved last month, will add more than $1.3 million annually in raises, including benefits. Salaries come mostly from property tax revenue.

Meanwhile, Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy has sponsored a charter amendment to be heard by a County Council committee at its Feb. 6 meeting. It requires three positive council votes before being put on the November ballot.

Lee Loy said Thursday she was “disturbed” by the commission discussion. She especially wants to see more public input into the process.

Lee Loy’s proposed amendment slows down the approval process to provide safeguards for the public by requiring, at least 30 days prior to the approval of any salary adjustment, public notice of the proposals in at least two daily newspapers in the county, at least two public hearings — one in East Hawaii and one in West Hawaii — and a “detailed report” of how the commission reached its recommendations, which would be open for public inspection.

In addition, any proposed increase or decrease of more than 10 percent would be subject to a two-thirds affirmative vote of the entire membership of the commission.

“If approved, this amendment would shed light on the decision-making process used to determine the salaries of officials covered by the Salary Commission and invite deeper public participation and scrutiny,” Lee Loy said.

Salary Commission meetings are open to the public and notice of the meetings are posted on county bulletin boards and online. But, other than individuals lobbying for specific raises for various departments, there has been little public input. No member of the public addressed the commission Thursday.

Raises approved Thursday by the Salary Commission

Position Current Salary New Salary Raise % Raise

Managing Director $119,004 $153,611 $34,607 29.1%

Mayor $132,000 $162,581 $30,581 23.2%

County Clerk $99,000 $126,420 $27,420 27.7%

Legislative Auditor $99,000 $126,420 $27,420 27.7%

Liquor Director $99,000 $126,420 $27,420 27.7%

Housing Director $99,000 $126,420 $27,420 27.7%

R&D Director $99,000 $126,420 $27,420 27.7%

Info Tech Director $99,000 $126,420 $27,420 27.7%

Deputy County Clerk $94,284 $113,778 $19,494 20.7%

R&D Deputy $94,284 $113,778 $19,494 20.7%

County Council Chairman $58,008 $77,016 $19,008 32.8%

County Council Member $52,008 $70,008 $18,000 34.6%

Deputy Managing Director $115,008 $132,744 $17,736 15.4%

Raises Previously Approved by Salary Commission

Position Current Salary New Salary Raise % Raise

Corporation Counsel $110,244 $153,226 $42,982 39.0%

Corp. Counsel Assistant $104,502 $145,968 $41,466 39.7%

Prosecuting Attorney $113,580 $153,226 $39,646 34.9%

Planning Director $99,000 $132,744 $33,744 34.1%

Planning Deputy $94,284 $126,420 $32,136 34.1%

Parks Director $99,000 $128,759 $29,759 30.1%

HR Director $99,000 $128,628 $29,628 29.9%

HR Deputy $94,284 $122,628 $28,344 30.1%

Parks Deputy $94,284 $122,628 $28,344 30.1%

Environ. Mgt. Director $110,244 $132,741 $22,497 20.4%

Finance Director $110,244 $132,722 $22,478 20.4%

Police Chief $130,818 $153,266 $22,448 17.2%

Public Works Director $110,244 $132,577 $22,333 20.3%

Environ. Mgt. Deputy $104,502 $126,420 $21,918 21.0%

Finance Deputy $104,502 $126,402 $21,900 21.0%

Public Works Deputy $104,502 $126,264 $21,762 20.8%

Fire Chief $130,818 $151,200 $20,382 15.6%

Police Deputy $126,894 $145,968 $19,074 15.0%

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Fire Deputy Chief $126,894 $143,640 $16,746 13.2%

Prosecuting Assistant $107,904 $145,968 $38,064 35.3%