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.


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%


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

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

  1. Jerry McEwen January 19, 2018 6:56 am

    Michelle, Tamika and Tanya Wanna ride this train

  2. Big ideas January 19, 2018 7:19 am

    Just F’ing great – thanks for listening to the taxpayers – NOT!

  3. Scooby January 19, 2018 7:35 am

    This is exactly what Harry Kim wanted. Big ass raises for his friends! Unbelievable

    1. Rusty Da Clown January 20, 2018 6:50 am

      Hey, give Harry a break – thanks to his bloated budget, he needs the raise to pay higher property taxes on his mansion in Sunrise Ridge and his beach house in Kapoho.

      1. Scooby January 20, 2018 11:05 pm

        Look at what he has done in one year…nothing! Yet he raised taxes saying he had no other choice, then he does nothing to stop the madness of pay raises for his people that top out on average of 30%!!! Let’s stop this out of control old man by holding him accountable at every turn!

  4. oceanwatcher.com January 19, 2018 12:14 pm

    Put this on the ballot and let voters decide if these people deserve a raise of this magnitude – I think NOT!

  5. 4whatitsworth January 19, 2018 1:21 pm

    After grossly mishandling basic services such as water, waste, traffic, and land planning everyone gets a raise?

    1. Finn January 20, 2018 9:55 pm

      Right on

  6. Big Dee January 19, 2018 4:32 pm

    We need a court injunction to stop this. Any lawyers out there?

  7. paul January 19, 2018 6:03 pm

    disgusting,absolutely disgusting….if these raises are not reduced immediately fire these political thiefs of taxpayer money or vote the bastards out of office!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. KonaRich January 19, 2018 7:04 pm

      Sorry Paul, non of that will happen with Hilo democrat voters running Hawaii county.

  8. paul January 19, 2018 6:05 pm

    all increases must be voter approved..no other way ever…the _ u_ king rape of the taxpayer must STOP

  9. KonaRich January 19, 2018 7:18 pm

    No one seems to remember when Kim was first elected (the first time) he treated the west side as his cash cow and there was nothing the westside could do because we were always out voted by Hilo voters. And that is how it will always be. I have no ideas on the fix here, but I truly wish I did.

    1. Rusty Da Clown January 20, 2018 6:50 am

      Kona had the opportunity to elect a mayor from Kona, but they instead recycled Hilo Harry Kim for a third term. I can’t explain it.

  10. angkoldoy January 20, 2018 8:33 am

    One simple way to send a message to our county leaders (I use that term very loosely). If your county property taxes is part of a mortgage payment, just change that. Pay it by check at the last possible moment. A small message to send, the most tiny show of the powerful citizenry.

  11. wahineilikea January 20, 2018 9:34 am

    Completely outrageous and unprecedented. I don’t understand the logic of raising salaries because it’s hard to attract good job candidates when these raises are going to people who are ALREADY IN those positions!

  12. Big ideas January 21, 2018 6:50 am


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