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Kenoi’s aides to get raises

April 2, 2014 - 12:05am

More salary bumps are on the horizon for county staff.

Two of Mayor Billy Kenoi’s top aides will see double-digit percentage increases and others will get slightly less under the 2014-15 budget he is scheduled to present today to the County Council Finance Committee.

Kenoi’s administration attributes the raises to the county’s policy of following raises and other benefits negotiated by unions covering similar employees. The 11 employees in the mayor’s Office of Management are in exempt managerial positions not covered by a union.

The mayor also wants to add back a position that was unfunded in past budgets, according to documents provided by the county Finance Department. A clerical services assistant would be added at an annual salary of $28,836.

The largest percentage increase is going to the mayor’s public relations specialist, whose $62,425 annual salary is climbing 17 percent to $73,032. Next is one of his executive assistants, whose $83,204 salary increases 10.7 percent to $92,081.

The increases are on top of 4 percent increases received by all the employees last year.

Kenoi, who last year turned down his own $22,000 raise recommended by the Salary Commission, said his employees, like employees all over the county, worked hard and sacrificed through furloughs during the hard times and it was time to recognize their efforts.

“Our staff took pay cuts every year since the very first year we took office,” Kenoi said. “We have tried to restore pay, salaries and positions, but we’re still spending much less today than when we took office.”

The budget for the mayor’s administration has dropped from $1.9 million in 2008 to $1.6 million in the proposed budget this year, his staff said.

The mayor is the first to present his budget as the County Council Finance Committee at 9 a.m. today kicks off three days of departmental budget hearings. The public can speak on the day’s agenda at the start of each meeting at the council chambers in Hilo or by videoconference from the West Hawaii Civic Center, the Waimea council office, the county facility in Kohala, the Hawaiian Ocean View Community Center and the Pahoa Neighborhood Facility.

The latest salary hikes for the mayor’s staff are a result of the thawing of step increases that were frozen five years ago. This caused salaries that previously automatically stepped up annually to catch up with several steps this year.

The mayor’s staff salaries are in addition to raises for union members negotiated at the state level and increases for most top county officials set by the Salary Commission. In addition to the mayor, the county managing director and deputy managing director have not taken raises.

The Salary Commission had added from $10,218 to $17,598 to salaries of 12 top officials.

The County Council last year gave 31 appointed legislative staffers 4 percent raises. The raises, also calculated to match similar raises granted unionized clerical staff, brought a council aide’s salary to $31,512 and the special assistant to the council chairman to $50,444.

Salaries for legal specialists, auditor assistants, legislative specialists and assistants to the county clerk also saw 4 percent increases, bringing their salaries into the $27,639 to $90,540 range. This is the first raise since 2008 for a class of workers who also took unpaid furloughs for three years.

Police and firefighters will also continue to get raises. The State of Hawaii Police Officers Union last year won a 16.8 percent raise over four years after binding arbitration. Firefighters will get about 18 percent over three years.

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