26 UH-Hilo, HCC employees to have salaries reduced



Eighteen University of Hawaii at Hilo and eight Hawaii Community College employees will be among 216 executive-managerial staffers throughout the UH system to have their salaries reduced Nov. 1 as UH braces for budget shortfalls amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We don’t know what will be the outcome of the negotiations the governor is having with the collective bargaining organizations around furloughs, but we decide to get around in front of that, executive leadership, and start with pay cuts,” said UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin in a conversation with members of the news media Friday.


Furloughs were discussed for UH administrators, but Irwin said “because most of us work far more than 40 hours a week anyway,” the notion of having a few furlough days each month didn’t make sense.

“So we’re just taking a pay cut rather than furloughs,” she said.

UH President David Lassner last week called for a 9.23% salary reduction for executive and managerial employees. Portions of salaries of more than $200,000 would be further reduced by 11%.

Lassner volunteered to reduce his total compensation by 20%, according to a post made Oct. 1 on the UH website.

“This is not related to your amazing efforts for the university and people of Hawaii,” he said in a message late last month to executive/managerial employees. “Payroll savings represent one of a handful of tools we have available for substantial cost reductions until we can achieve the structural savings needed to thrive in the new environment.”

In addition to Irwin, the salary reductions at UH-Hilo will impact the university’s vice chancellors, dean of students and academic deans, among others.

“It’s a fairly small number on this campus, and in terms of the greater budget, administrative pay cuts are kind of a drop in the bucket,” Irwin said. “But we feel it’s really important to lead here — that if we’re going to be asking people across the campus to sacrifice (because of budget shortfalls), then we need to start with ourselves.”

HCC Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas said the pay reduction is just one of many strategies the UH system and the HCC campus will use to balance budgets and ensure financial stability while positioning the system for an economic recovery.

“We’re in it together,” she said. “For the leadership to take that first step is appropriate.”

According to UH, about 60% of the systemwide budget comes from state general funds, and the state is projecting a $2.3 billion budget deficit.

Meanwhile, tuition revenue accounts for about 40% of UH’s operating budget, and total enrollment has declined 0.8% this fall, according to numbers posted by the UH Institutional Research and Analysis Office.


The salary reductions follow other cost-saving measure previously directed by UH administrators, which include a hiring freeze, suspension of nonextramural-funded travel and cash preservation measures.

Email Stephanie Salmons at

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