By NANCY COOK LAUER
Stephens Media Hawaii
Double-digit raises are coming to 12 county officials Friday under a pay plan unanimously approved Wednesday by the Hawaii County Salary Commission.
The salary plan, designed to make Hawaii County officials’ salaries more on par with those on other islands and to make sure no department head is making less money than his or her subordinates, adds from $10,218 to $17,598 to salaries of the 12 officials.
The commission had narrowed its focus in the face of some initial opposition, but members don’t plan to stop with the latest group of raises. The commission plans to look at other positions and possibly make recommendations to rules governing county salary structures starting at its Dec. 12 meeting.
“In order to maintain the quality people you need and not have them leave for other jobs, we need to review these salary structures,” said Commissioner Michael Sumja.
Mayor Billy Kenoi, who refused a raise and was subsequently removed from the salary plan, praised the Salary Commission for its months of work and said the county budget would be able to absorb the additional $162,048 the raises add annually.
“Everyone’s gone through pay freezes and even reductions in pay,” Kenoi said, adding, “We’re cautiously optimistic that we will be able to meet all of our fiscal obligations for the fiscal year.”
The Salary Commission in August had whittled its original list down from 25 officials at a cost of $224,646 after members of the public and Kenoi’s administration spoke against it. Kenoi, who was slated to receive a $22,002 raise, had vowed to give it to Hawaii Island’s United Way if the commission persisted.
Kenoi is currently making $109,152 a year, which is about 20 percent less than his highest paid subordinate.
Commissioners made some last-minute increases to salaries for police and fire chiefs and top deputies after learning union negotiations had raised salaries among the rank-and-file, bringing some officers to salaries higher than those proposed for their bosses.
The police chief and fire chief salaries as of Friday are $130,818 each, a 14 percent increase from their current $109,296 salaries. That compares to police chief salaries on Kauai of $114,490, Maui of $135,000 and City and County of Honolulu of $151,000, according to Commissioner Marcella Stroh.
The deputy police chief and deputy fire chief will get 16 percent raises, from $109,296 to $126,894. The first deputy county prosecutor will get an $8,904 raise to $107,904.
Corporation Counsel and the directors of Finance, Environmental Management and Public Works will see their salaries rise 11.4 percent, from $99,000 to $110,244. Their top assistants will see 11 percent increases, from $94,284 to $104,502.
The original plan had the raises start Oct. 1, but commissioners delayed them a month so the county wouldn’t have to pay retroactively. It took the commission eight months to arrive at the current salary schedule, after a committee brought back several options.
“The committee worked very hard on this, and it’s good that we don’t have to go back to the drawing board,” said Chairwoman Karolyn Lundkvist.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.