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Salary Commission mulls raises for top county officials, delays vote

Much smaller raises are being considered for top county officials next year, following last year’s eye-popping double-digit hikes.

The county Salary Commission on Tuesday mulled raises of about $5,600 for each top position, a 3.4 percent to 7.5 percent increase, for the next budget year that starts July 1. That’s on top of raises of $16,700 to $42,900, or 13.2 percent to 39.7 percent, last year.

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The raises are for the mayor, County Council, department chiefs and deputies. The mayor, for example, would see his pay rise to $168,223 annually; the County Council chairman would be paid $82,657 and a council member would get $75,649.

The Salary Commission has the sole power to set raises for those positions. It’s authorized by charter to ensure salaries have a reasonable relation to comparable positions in the public and private sector. The commission also wants to ensure supervisors are making more than the rank-and-file positions they supervise.

The commission justified last year’s big increases as catch-up following several years of no raises at all. Now it’s a matter of refining the process and ensuring the officials’ pay keeps up, they said.

The commission postponed voting on the increases, even though it was pointed out that there would be a much longer process to do so if a charter amendment is passed by voters Nov. 6. That will immediately add steps to the process, including 30 days public notice, a public hearing and a full report with the rationale for the increases.

Some commissioners seemed ready to vote on the list of raises, which they and the public received at the beginning of the meeting, in advance of the likely charter change.

“If we’re pretty convinced that this is the right thing to do (and) have an opportunity to put something into effect that doesn’t have to go through this process,” Chairman Hugh Ono said. “This lends itself to much more openness (because) it will be in the county budget process.”

Most commissioners seemed OK with the increases, with Commissioner Thomas Fratinardo even suggesting formulas be developed so future boards could just apply them to come up with the next set of increases.

But Commissioner Milton Pavao put on the brakes.

“For us to pass this with the whole purpose of circumventing the charter amendment is not in the best interest of this commission,” Pavao said. “I think we will be doing ourselves an injustice by passing this. This sends a bad message.”

Top officials need raises because collective bargaining units for mid-level managers resulted in 2.25 annual increases, plus a $2,000 longevity bonus, said Human Resources Director Bill Brilhante. He said four departments still have managers making more than the deputy department chief who supervises them.

“As the years go by that gap never narrows. It just gets wider and wider and wider with each percent increase,” Brilhante said.

Commissioner Jim Higgins wasn’t comfortable with the automatic nature of the raises without considering merit. He also wanted to be sure the raises are affordable for the county and county taxpayers.

“To me, the optics of this stink,” Higgins said. “Right now, there are a lot of people and businesses that are struggling and we hit the pavement with new pay raises.”

The commission agreed to have the Finance Department come in and outline next year’s budget. It also wants boards and commissions to give input on the directors under their jurisdiction.

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

Proposed raises for top county officials

Position Proposed salary Increase % Raise

Mayor $168,223 $5,641 3.4%

Managing Director $159,253 $5,641 3.5%

Deputy Managing Director $138,385 $5,641 4.1%

County Clerk $132,061 $5,641 4.3%

Legislative Auditor $132,061 $5,641 4.3%

Deputy County Clerk $119,419 $5,641 4.7%

County Council Chairman $82,657 $5,641 6.8%

County Council Member $75,649 $5,641 7.5%

Info Tech Director $132,061 $5,641 4.3%

Liquor Director $132,061 $5,641 4.3%

Housing Director $132,061 $5,641 4.3%

R&D Director $132,061 $5,641 4.3%

R&D Deputy $119,137 $5,359 4.5%

Environ. Mgt. Director $138,385 $5,641 4.1%

Environ. Mgt. Deputy $131,779 $5,359 4.1%

Finance Director $138,367 $5,641 4.1%

Finance Deputy $131,726 $5,324 4.0%

HR Director $134,269 $5,641 4.2%

HR Deputy $127,987 $5,359 4.2%

Parks Director $134,401 $5,641 4.2%

Parks Deputy $127,987 $5,359 4.2%

Planning Director $138,385 $5,641 4.1%

Planning Deputy $131,779 $5,359 4.1%

Police Chief $158,911 $5,641 3.5%

Police Deputy $151,327 $5,359 3.5%

Public Works Director $138,223 $5,641 4.1%

Public Works Deputy $131,623 $5,359 4.1%

Corporation Counsel $158,869 $5,641 3.6%

Corp. Counsel Assistant $151,327 $5,359 3.5%

Fire Chief $156,841 $5,641 3.6%

Fire Deputy Chief $148,999 $5,359 3.6%

Prosecuting Attorney $158,869 $5,641 3.6%

Prosecuting Assistant $151,327 $5,359 3.5%

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Source: Hawaii County Human Resources Department

For fiscal year starting July 1, 2019

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