HILO — Making county spending more transparent is the aim of two charter amendments scheduled for the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
One measure requires public notice and a chance for public input before raises are granted top county officials, while a second requires a financial impact statement be available to the public for any future charter amendment on the ballot. Thursday was the deadline for ballot language to be submitted to the state Office of Elections.
Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, sponsor of the first measure, said she wanted the public to have greater scrutiny of raises following recent actions by the county Salary Commission. The commission, which has sole discretion over salaries of the mayor, County Council, department heads and department deputies, gave most of them double-digit raises, saying current salaries haven’t kept up with salaries of subordinates or comparable positions in the public and private sectors.
Lee Loy said she heard from constituents after the newspapers reported the raises, and said she also had concerns.
“For me, the legitimate concerns were the proposals that were put forward were proposed and voted in the same day,” Lee Loy said Friday. “On the council, we’re afforded the public’s input. I just want to get them back to the same protocol we use when they’re acting to impact the budget.”
The Salary Commission is currently working on its own administrative rules to make public notice more clear, and it’s preparing information at the request of the Charter Commission about how the charter affects its operations, said Chairman Hugh Ono. The Salary Commission meeting scheduled for Thursday had been canceled because of Hurricane Lane.
The second amendment, sponsored by Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung, also helps make the public more aware of county spending by detailing fiscal impacts of changes to the county charter. Sometimes, Chung said, an amendment may seem innocuous, but it could have unforeseen financial implications that could hurt county budgeting.
Chung said he was considering sponsoring such an amendment during his prior tenure on the council, but ran out of time and is now putting it forward.
“As legislators, as lawmakers, we always have to consider the fiscal impact of every legislation that we entertain,” Chung said. “We want to give the voters as much information as we can. … (Amendments) all look appealing, but for the sake of full disclosure, everyone should know what are the fiscal impacts.”
The wording of the ballot measures follows:
Amendment 1. Public Notice and Voting Requirements for the Salary Commission
“Shall Article XIII of the County Charter be amended to require the Salary Commission to publish notification in two daily newspapers in the county, hold at least one public hearing and provide a detailed report of its findings and conclusions for public inspection, all at least thirty (30) days prior to adopting any increase or decrease of a county elected official or appointed officer’s salary, and to further require that the Salary Commission approve by a two-thirds vote of its entire membership any salary increase or decrease greater than ten percent?”
Amendment 2. Financial Impact Statements for Amendments to the Hawaii County Charter
“Shall Article XV of the County Charter be amended to require that any proposed amendment to the County Charter be accompanied by a Financial Impact Statement that describes the immediate and potential future effects that proposed amendment would have on county revenues, expenditures, taxes and fiscal liabilities and that the Financial Impact Statements be provided to voters no less than sixty (60) calendar days prior to the election where the proposed change is to be voted on by posting on the county website and by being made available for inclusion in any voter information pamphlet on county ballot propositions?”