Council debates staff raises


By TOM CALLIS

Tribune-Herald staff writer

A proposal to give the County Council members’ appointed staff a 4 percent raise was tabled Tuesday after a lengthy discussion over step increases.

No council member spoke against the proposed raises, which would mirror those being given to their unionized counterparts, but some expressed a desire to have formal criteria established for determining how the 31 employees fall into the various pay ranges.

Currently, that’s left up to the discretion of each council member, with concurrence from the council chair.

“We don’t have any procedures in place that are clear,” said Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter.

Additionally, Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford proposed an amendment adding additional steps to three of the positions.

That would increase the maximum pay for a council aide and council legislative assistant by about 27 percent, and a council aide to the chair by 34 percent.

“Some steps don’t go very far,” Ford said.

“I want to be fair to everyone if we are going to do this,” she added.

The initial proposal, introduced by Chairman J Yoshimoto, would cost the county about $56,000 a year.

It’s unclear how adding steps would change that figure.

Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi suggested the council look at giving the lowest paid employees raises first.

“We got to get them the money back first and then from there see how the economy goes” before giving raises to higher paid staff, he said.

Even though the issue was tabled, the council’s appointed staff may see raises before the union members.

Union contracts for public employees are negotiated statewide and approved raises can’t go into effect until the state and counties have approved the additional funding.

Maui and Kauai counties have yet to make that allocation, meaning that members of United Public Workers and several bargaining units with Hawaii Government Employees Association won’t see the raises in their first paychecks next month, said Sharon Toriano, deputy human resources director for the county.

But, she said, those employees will receive that additional pay retroactively once the procedural requirements are met.

“We have no intent on harming anyone,” Toriano said. “It’s a matter of” procedure.

Both counties are expected to make the allocations no later than Aug. 15, she said.

If they are not approved, the matter goes back to negotiations.

The earliest the raises could be seen in their paychecks is the July 31 payroll, the county said in a memo to staff.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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