Two items on Wednesday’s Kauai County Council meeting deserve the public’s attention.
One will raise your taxes.
One will raise county salaries for several posts.
Tax-paying citizens may want to attend the meeting, 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Historic County Building, to share their input, since this is, after all, your money. If you believe your government leaders deserve more money, wonderful. If not, it may happen anyway.
Now, government officials generally hate it when newspapers point out they are proposing to raise taxes and give raises. They will argue it’s not fair and these are separate issues that should be approached on their own.
But here we go, anyway.
First, the raises were adopted by the Salary Commission at its Nov. 9 meeting.
The proposed raises are 2.5 percent for “certain officers and employees of the County of Kauai.” And, to quote from the agenda, “the Salary Commission’s findings shall be adopted by resolution and shall take effect without the Mayor’s and Council’s concurrence sixty (60) days after its adoption unless rejected by a vote of not less than five members of the Council. The Council may reject either the entire resolution or any portion of it.”
Under this proposal, here is the list of titles and salaries:
Mayor $135,300; Managing Director $125,602.48; County Engineer $122,340.93; Deputy County Engineer $117,446.55; Director of Finance $122,340.93; Deputy Director of Finance $117,446.55; County Attorney $122,340.93; First Deputy County Attorney $117,446.55; Deputy County Attorney $112,299.00; Prosecuting Attorney $122,340.93; First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney $117,446.55; Deputy Prosecuting Attorney $112,299.00; Director of Human Resources $117,446.55; Chief of Police $130,495.83; Deputy Chief of Police $117,446.55; Planning Director $122,340.93; Deputy Planning Director $112,299.00; Manager and Chief Engineer, Department of Water $122,340.93; DOW Deputy Manager-Engineer, $117,446.55; Fire Chief, $130,495.83; Deputy Fire Chief $117,446.55; Director of Economic Development $112,299; Director of Liquor Control $112,299; Director of Parks &Recreation $122,340.93; Deputy Director of Parks &Recreation $117,446.55; Director of Housing $117,446.55; Boards and Commissions Administrator $112,299; County Clerk $122,340.93; Deputy County Clerk $117,446.55; County Auditor $122,340.93.
Councilmembers would also see a raise, effective Dec. 1, 2018. Their annual salaries would be: Council chair $72,808.83; councilmembers $64,718.50.
Now, the salaries of these jobs already seem fair enough without the increase. But officials will argue raises are necessary to keep top talent. Finding replacements takes time and costs money, so it’s smarter to give raises to keep people home and happy, goes the argument. You, the citizens, can decide if you believe the folks holding the posts that go with those job titles are worth it.
At the same time the raises are proposed, the council will consider a tax increase.
Bill 2670 would “establish a general excise and use tax surcharge” of 1/2 percent. This passed the council in its first reading on Oct. 18. Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura, Mason Chock, Arryl Kaneshiro, Derek Kawakami and Mel Rapozo voted for it.
Ross Kagawa voted no.
Arthur Brun was excused and did not vote.
The tax hike is necessary, according to the county, “because the island is faced with traffic congestion and its roads are in poor condition. These critical issues affect the quality of life of all residents and visitors.”
The county owns about 300 miles of roadways, which have a deferred maintenance cost of about $126 million; 98 miles of which are in need of reconstruction and resurfacing that is estimated to cost approximately $104 million, and on Kauai there is also a need to improve and expand sidewalks for pedestrians, including people with disabilities.
According to the ordinance, “the County recognizes that historically appropriated funding of limited resources have been inadequate to address, improve and maintain deteriorating roadways and bridges as is evidenced by the unsatisfactory conditions experienced by motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
“The County further recognizes the need to increase the accessibility and frequency of service to bus stops and shelters throughout the island. Expansion of mainline and shuttle routes will allow more individuals with disabilities to safely access fixed-route service, reducing the demand for costly paratransit service.”
The 0.5 percent general excise and use tax surcharge would be levied starting Jan. 1, 2019. The money would go into a “G.E. Tax Fund” and be used for operating and capital costs of public transportation within the county.
Now, no one is going to argue against the statement that many miles of the county’s roads need work. But some would argue that the county should cut spending in other areas to pay for that road work and work with the budget at hand instead of seeking more tax money.
Some could also argue that there’s something not quite right when the county is proposing to raise the salaries for some positions (all of which are over six figures other than the council, and that’s not even talking about the generous benefits that come with working for the county) at the same times it is proposing to raise taxes.
Wednesday is the public’s chance to speak out on these issues. If you are interested, please be there.