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

  • Raises approved Thursday

The Salary Commission approved raises of up to 34.6 percent Thursday, while a County Council member has introduced a charter amendment to try 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.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

  1. Rusty Da Clown January 19, 2018 6:10 am

    WOW! Harry Kim never fails to amaze. Jack up taxes while crying oh-poor-us, then he gets a FAT raise for doing hardly anything! I bet there will be a bunch of new candidates for county council too…

  2. Steve Dearing January 19, 2018 7:01 am

    Demo rats are worse than pigs. The fools that vote for these jackasses are just as bad if not worse, the demo rats are stuck on stupid.

    1. Poi January 19, 2018 8:22 am

      Re-Pig-Lickin’s did nothing to help. Why? Because they are NON-PARTISAN positions, genius.

      1. Sonny Poindexter January 19, 2018 9:54 am

        He still doesn’t get it .

  3. metalman808 January 19, 2018 11:23 am

    DemoRATS. Getting rich with your money. Keep voting for that fake smile. 30 thousand dollar raise, smiling all the way to the bank. Harry bringing trust back to the government. Suckers!!!

    1. Poi January 19, 2018 3:28 pm

      …because they are all “card-carrying” and you checked all their cards? Think you might be surprised (unpleasantly) if you did bother to check, Mr Metal-hat Re-PIG-Lickin.

      1. metalman808 January 19, 2018 5:56 pm

        Oink oink

  4. Ah Cmon! January 19, 2018 12:24 pm

    ASTOUNDING! No one to blame but ourselves for letting this bs happen. Mahalo Mr Pavao for calling it out; you’re right, 34%, 32%, 29%, & 27% pay increases in the wake of fuel and property tax increases sends the wrong message! I think the meetings are poorly attended bc no one really knows what the hell the salary commission does! Now we know: they raid the reserves and give it to the County heads and we can’t say a damn thing about it…. disgusting. 😡

  5. Jose Martinez January 19, 2018 2:36 pm

    whats the big thing?now that these people get more money,we will see,less murders,all the state roads fixed,no more over time for county employees,and just about all mayor service things 100%better.

    1. Poi January 19, 2018 3:25 pm


  6. ghummer57 January 19, 2018 4:28 pm

    Huh??? Or WTF? This has to be a misprint, we will read the correction in tomorrow’s paper. Who in their right mind would approve a 30% raise for a bunch of do nothings. Of course the guy who pressed the false alarm last week still has his job, so stranger things have happened.

  7. Realitystrikes96778 January 19, 2018 11:12 pm

    The Salary Commission needs to be completed revamped in the County Charter Salaries need to be set by people who are accountable to the taxpayers. The Salary Commissioner was created to be and continues be a way for politicians to avoid responsibility for spending money on excessive salaries. Checks and balances are fundamental to our way of government, but there is no check or balance on the powers of the Commission. If the Salary Commission set the salary of the Mayor at $1,000,000.00 per year, we’d be stuck paying that. The Salary Commission should be advisory only and given the responsibility of making salary recommendations to the County Council. A better choice would be to abolish it entirely. It didn’t exist prior to 1980 or so and the County got along fine without it.

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