$22K raise proposed for Kenoi


HILO — Mayor Billy Kenoi will get a $22,000 raise and other county officials will get up to 19.8 percent raises under a salary adjustment plan proposed Wednesday by the Hawaii County Salary Commission.

The commission plans to hold a public hearing next month before modifying or accepting the plan that was prepared by a three-member working group of the seven-member commission. The raises would go into effect July 1.

The goal of the adjustments is to make salaries more equitable so employees aren’t making more than their bosses, department heads’ salaries are more consistent and salaries are more in line with salaries for the same job in other jurisdictions, committee members said.

“We deliberated until we were fair to everyone on that list,” said Commissioner Michael Sumja. “We put a whole lot of time into this thing.”

Citing the sour economy, the Salary Commission in 2009 froze step increases — automatic increases every two years — for top administrative employees not covered by unions. The commission at the time said it would undertake a study to replace the step increases with a more workable process.

Kenoi, in 2009, instituted unpaid furloughs, first twice-monthly and then monthly, for his administrators, equivalent to 9.2 percent and 4.6 percent salary reductions, respectively. He plans to end the furloughs starting July 1, restoring salaries to their 2009 level.

The mayor isn’t ready for across-the-board raises. The Salary Commission, however, has the final say on salaries and can’t be overridden by council or administrative action.

“I thank all the volunteers on the Salary Commission, but we don’t believe it’s the best time for raises,” Kenoi said. “We made tough budget decisions for the past four years and we probably have another year to do so.”

Kenoi said he stands by a March 22 letter Finance Director Nancy Crawford wrote to the commission, asking that all salaries remain at current levels.

But commissioners note that the entire raise package would increase salaries in the budget by only $224,646 annually. The figure doesn’t include benefits.

“She may have thought it would cost millions and millions when it’s only $225,000,” said Commissioner Brian De Lima.

Kenoi currently makes $109,152 annually, less than the county prosecutor, police chief, deputy police chief and fire chief. His salary would rise to $131,154 under the proposal.

County Prosecutor Mitch Roth, who makes $113,580, would not get a raise, nor would Fire Chief Darren Rosario, who makes $114,768. Police Chief Harry Kubojiri, who also makes $114,768, would get an increase to $127,335.

Kenoi’s Managing Director Wally Lau would get a 19.8 percent raise to $124,596, and Deputy Managing Director Randy Kurohara would get a 10.9 percent increase to $118,149. Kenoi’s four executive assistants, who make between $76,004 and $85,500, aren’t addressed in the recommendations.

Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida, who makes $99,000, which is less than several of his deputies, would get a 6.3 percent raise to $105,288.

County Council members, who received a 22 percent raise in 2009, will not get a raise this time around, according to the Salary Commission plan. Councilors currently are paid $48,000 and the council chairman makes $52,000. The salaries are relatively low based on the assumption that being on the council isn’t a full-time job.

The Salary Commission didn’t recommend raises for legislative branch officers such as county clerk and legislative auditor.

Some department heads currently making $99,000, such as Finance Director Nancy Crawford and Acting Environmental Management Director Dora Beck, would get 11.4 percent raises to $110,244. Public Works Director Warren Lee, who makes $99,000, would get an 11.1 percent raise to $110,001.

Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma, who makes $94,284, would get an 8.1 percent raise to $101,970. The department head salaries will be based on number of employees, comparison with other jurisdictions and salaries of subordinates.

“I’m not opposed to seeing department heads equitably compensated,” Kenoi said, “but these are still uncertain economic times.”