Raises com­ing for county of­fi­cials

SALARY COM­MIS­SION MULLS MORE MONEY FOR MAYOR, COUN­CIL MEM­BERS, DE­PART­MENT HEADS

West Hawaii Today - - Front Page - BY NANCY COOK LAUER ncook-lauer@west­hawai­ito­day.com

HILO — Raises are com­ing to top county of­fi­cials, but ex­actly how much was a topic of some de­bate at a Salary Com­mis­sion meet­ing Wed­nes­day.

Com­mis­sion­ers want to ad­dress dis­crep­an­cies cre­ated when union-ne­go­ti­ated raises at the state level put some of the county mid­dle man­agers at higher pay rates than their bosses. But sev­eral com­mis­sion­ers wor­ried about the im­pact raises will have on a county bud­get that al­ready re­lied this year on tax hikes to bal­ance.

“Ev­ery­one in this room wants pay raises for our friends and neigh­bors who are in these po­si­tions,” said Com­mis­sioner James Hig­gins.

In­clud­ing ben­e­fits, “the pack­ages can be huge,” he said.

Com­mis­sion­ers de­bated on which should come first: How much the county can af­ford, or a fair salary for ad­min­is­tra­tors.

“We’re man­dated by the county char­ter,” said Com­mis­sioner Thomas Frati­nardo. “I’m not go­ing to as­sume whether the county can af­ford it or not.”

The mayor and top ad­min­is­tra­tors last got raises in 2014.

The county char­ter gives the Salary Com­mis­sion the re­spon­si­bil­ity to set salaries of top of­fi­cials in the county. The com­mis­sion has no ju­ris­dic­tion over union mem­bers. Salaries set by the com­mis­sion can­not be changed by the County Coun­cil or the mayor.

Some com­mis­sion­ers wor­ried that the county would have to again raise prop­erty taxes or cut ser­vices in or­der to fac­tor in raises when bal­anc­ing the bud­get. But that shouldn’t be their con­cern, said Fi­nance Di­rec­tor Deanna Sako.

“Your du­ties are to set the salaries and we’ll find the money, so to speak,” Sako said.

The char­ter states, “The com­mis­sion shall re­view and com­pen­sate all county elected of­fi­cials and ap­pointed di­rec­tors and deputy di­rec­tors so that their to­tal salaries and ben­e­fits have a rea­son­able re­la­tion­ship to com­pen­sa­tion in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors.”

The char­ter does not ad­dress

“salary in­ver­sion,” where di­rec­tors make less than their sub­or­di­nates.

That’s a big is­sue for the Hawaii Po­lice De­part­ment, said Po­lice Com­mis­sion Vice Chair­man Peter Hen­dricks. The po­lice chief makes $ 132,000 an­nu­ally. The deputy po­lice chief makes $ 126,894. In con­trast, raises that took ef­fect this year mean as­sis­tant chiefs make $146,116 and ma­jors make $133,647.

The Po­lice Com­mis­sion wants the chief ’s salary set at 20 per­cent more than the high­est- paid sub­or­di­nate, and the deputy chief ’s set at 10 per­cent of the high­est paid sub­or­di­nate.

The char­ter di­rec­tive to make salaries have a “rea­son­able re­la­tion­ship” to pub­lic- and pri­vate-sec­tor po­si­tions had com­mis­sion­ers seek­ing more in­for­ma­tion.

The pub­lic- sec­tor in­for­ma­tion was read­ily avail­able. For ex­am­ple, the may­ors of both Hawaii and Kauai coun­ties make $ 132,000 an­nu­ally, com­pared to Maui mayor’s $151,979 and Hon­olulu’s $ 173,184, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent data avail­able. The Hawaii County po­lice chief ’s $ 130,818 com­pared to Kauai’s $127,313, Maui’s $151,200 and Hon­olulu’s $191,184.

Pri­vate- sec­tor in­for­ma­tion will take some re­search, com­mis­sion­ers said. Com­mis­sion Chair­man Hugh Ono asked staff to gather more in­for­ma­tion. In the mean­time, Ono will set pa­ram­e­ters for a spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tory com­mit­tee to be named at an Oct. 27 meet­ing.

Com­mis­sioner Mil­ton Pavao wanted a big pic­ture ap­proach.

“We need to know where we are be­fore we go some­place else,” Pavao said.

Pub­lic em­ployee union raises this year added more than $9 mil­lion to the county’s $ 491 mil­lion bud­get. More raises for rank- and- file work­ers cov­ered by union ne­go­ti­a­tions are an­tic­i­pated next year.

“We’re all pushed by col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing when it comes down to it,” said Com­mis­sioner Harold Dow.

Un­der the Salary Com­mis­sion, top county of­fi­cials in 2014 got raises from 5 per­cent to 21 per­cent, bring­ing salaries for County Coun­cil mem­bers to $ 52,008; coun­cil chair­man to $ 58,008, and most de­part­ment heads to $99,000.

“We need to know where we are be­fore we go some­place else.” MIL­TON PAVAO, COM­MIS­SIONER

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