Monday, Nov. 27, 2023|
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Top county executives could be in line for significant pay raises come Jan. 1.
Under a proposal by the county Salary Commission, those individuals would receive a 22.44% pay increase, effective Jan. 1, 2024, and another 5% effective July 1, 2024.
Under the proposal, Mayor Mitch Roth, whose current yearly salary is $162,582, would make $199,068 on Jan. 1 and $209,028 on July 1 — the latter being the date the next fiscal year starts.
The $153,612 yearly salary of the managing director — a post currently held by Lee Lord, who is retiring Dec. 29 — would be hiked to $188,088 on New Year’s Day and $197, 496 on July 1. And Deputy Managing Director Bobby Command’s $132,744 yearly pay would increase to $162,540 on Jan. 1 and $170,676 on July 1.
County Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen and Corporation Counsel Elizabeth Strance, the county’s top civil attorney, currently are paid $153,228 a year. Their pay would increase on Jan. 1 to $187,620 on Jan. 1 and $197,004 on July 1.
First Deputy Prosecutor Stephen Frye makes $145,968, as does Assistant Corporation Counsel J Yoshimoto. Their salaries would increase to $178,828 on Jan. 1 and $187,668 on July 1.
In a Salary Commission document titled Proposed Findings of Fact, the 22.44% is called an “inflationary adjustment,” and is tied to the Consumer Price Index rate change.
“This inflationary adjustment is granted to bring the base compensation from the 2018 level to a 2023 level,” the document states, adding it “doesn’t entail any retroactive pay.”
“The estimated inflationary rate for the calendar year 2023 is 4.8%,” according to the document.
The only person who testified at Thursday’s Salary Commission meeting in Hilo was Hugh Ono, a professional engineer and the former Salary Commission chairman.
“I didn’t mention who I was at all, that I was the past chair of the Salary Commission,” Ono told the Tribune-Herald afterwards. “I just wanted to make some points that I’ve learned over the years that I wish I’d known at that time.
“In most cases, what the Salary Commission does is very fair. And it’s unfortunate that the public sees it elsewise.”
Ono pointed out that county executives, whose paychecks aren’t subject to collective bargaining, haven’t received a raise since 2018, the year Ono stepped down as the commission chairman.
“Government compensation doesn’t really compare to private compensation,” he said. “So, in the private sector, one would get paid much more than in the public sector for the same type of work that they’re doing. Government is also different from private in that in the government, your client is everyone that’s in the County of Hawaii. Whereas, in the private sector your clientele are your customers only.”
While county executive compensation has remained frozen at 2018 levels, police officers represented by the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers are receiving a cumulative across-the-board increase of 21.25% for the period of July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2025.
During the same period, firefighters represented by the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association are set to receive a 17.25% raise, while professional and scientific employees represented by Hawaii Government Employees Association are to receive a 16.02% pay hike.
“You look at the cost of living, you look at comparative salaries in the private sector as much as you can, you look at what the collective bargaining units have done — I think it’s really well detailed in the findings of fact,” Salary Commission Chairman Steven Pavao told the Tribune-Herald after the meeting.
The increases also include department heads, the county clerk and his deputy, county auditor, the County Council chair and council members.
Collective bargaining increases, overtime pay and Civil Service step increases also have created a situation known as “salary inversion” where some subordinates are making more money than the department heads and deputy department heads that oversee their work.
None of the positions covered in the Salary Commission’s proposal are eligible for overtime pay or step increases.
“This is a disincentive for some of the good employees not wanting to move up into the director or management level because of that,” Ono said.
Police Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz, who has been in the position a little over a year, was a major for the Honolulu Police Department who took a pay cut to become the Big Island’s top cop.
Moszkowicz’s current $153,270 salary would be increased $187,668 as of Jan. 1 and $197,052 on July 1. Deputy Chief Reed Mahuna’s $145,968 salary would go to $178,728 on New Year’s Day and $187,668 on July 1.
Fire Chief Kazuo Todd is currently paid $151,200 a year. His salary would be increased to $185,136 on Jan. 1 and $194,400 on July 1. Deputy Chief Eric Moller’s current $143,640 salary would be increased to $175,884 on Jan. 1 and $184,680 on July 1.
Department heads, including the county clerk and county auditor, have salaries between $126,420 and $132,744. Their increases would put their pay range between $154,800 and $162,540 on Jan. 1 and $162,540 and $170,676 on July 1.
Their deputies are paid between $113,778 and $126,420. Those salaries would increase to between $139,320 and $154,800 on New Year’s Day and between $146,292 and $162,540 on July 1.
The salary for council members currently is $70,008, with the council chair making $77,016. Members would receive raises to $85,728 on Jan. 1 and $90,024 on July 1, with the chair receiving hikes to $94,308 on Jan. 1 and to $99,024 on July 1.
According to the commission, the salary increases on Jan. 1 would cost taxpayers $484,107 — 0.06% of the county’s operating budget — until June 31, the end of the fiscal year. The increases for the fiscal year starting July 1 would be an additional $264,216, or roughly 0.03% of the current operating budget.
According to Ono, “Salary adjustments are not for the individuals who hold the positions; they’re for the positions that these people hold.”
“The frequencies that these adjustments are being made aren’t fair because they come at intervals,” he added. “The last one was in 2018. And I think prior to that, it was 2008.”
There is one more opportunity for the public to weigh in on the proposed raises, at the Salary Commission’s final meeting of the year, which will be at 9 a.m. Dec. 22 in the Council Room at the Hawaii County Building, 25 Aupuni St. in Hilo.
Written testimony can be submitted before noon on Dec. 21 by mail to the Salary Commission, 101 Pauahi St., Suite 2, Hilo, HI 96720, by fax to (808) 961-8617 or by email to Glynis.Yamada@hawaiicounty.gov.
Testimony also can be given via Zoom by contacting Glynis Yamada at (808) 961-8361 or the previous email address by noon Dec. 21, or live by video conference at the Kona Council Office in the West Hawaii Civic Center, 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Hwy., Building A in Kailua-Kona.
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