Mayor’s pay falls behind rest of state

LIHU’E — Armed with a report comparing salaries of officials from other

counties, the Kaua’i Salary Commission is moving closer to recommending new

salary ranges for Mayor Maryanne Kusaka and her top appointees.

“It is

getting close,” said Salary Commission Chairman Eugene Bullock after a

commission meeting this week at the Historic County Building.

For the past

four months, the Commission has reviewed and rejected the Administration’s

proposed 14.5 percent salary increase package.

The body’s recommendations

will be sent to the Kaua’i County Council, which will determine the amount of

the salary increase.

In his report, Salary Commission Vice Chair Barry

Hubbard noted that Kaua’i salaries, in general, don’t keep pace with the those

of the other counties, and need to be adjusted.

There exists, he said, an

average salary difference ranging from 6.5 to 9.2 to 30.5 percent among

appointees from Mau’i County, the Big Island and the City and County of

Honolulu and officials from Kaua’i County.

With regard to Kusaka’s $73,118

annual salary, the report said there is:

* A 7.4 percent difference between

her salary and the $78,564 -a-year salary of Big Island Mayor Stephen

Yamashiro.

* A 19.1 percent difference between her salary and the

$87,098-a-year salary of Mau’i Mayor James Apana,

* A 39.5 percent

difference between her salary and the $102,000-a-year salary of Honolulu Mayor

Jeremy Harris.

Kauaian Mel Rapozo, who has opposed Kusaka’s proposal citing

lack of funds, said Kusaka’s salary is about right because Kaua’i has the

smallest population of all the islands and Kusaka’s responsibilities are fewer

than other mayors.

The report also shows that the Kaua’i County Prosecutor

and the head of the Kaua’i County Liquor Department make less than their

counterparts in other counties.

The Kaua’i County prosecutor is paid

$69,371 and the head of the liquor department on Kaua’i is paid $55,000.

By

comparison, the Honolulu prosecutor is paid $91,800 and the head of the liquor

department in Honolulu is paid $85,374.

When the Salary Commission is ready

to make recommendations on salary ranges, Hubbard said he would support a

percentage increase that would be a compromise of the salary percentage

differences for the other islands.

“My recommendation is that we find an

anchor, anchor county or an anchor position within a particular county to say

that is where we want to go,” Hubbard said.

Other commissioners and

audience members Rapozo and Glenn Mickens praised Hubbard’s report.

But

Rapozo also said the Salary Commission should halt its work now and make a

recommendation that the County Council take up the salary issue during its

budget meetings this year.

“I think it should have been done way back

when,” Rapozo said. “My suggestion was that this matter be put before the

budget hearings, because at that particular venue, the administration will have

the opportunity to justify not only the raise, but also, where the money is

coming from.”

Residents also will be able to give more comments at public

hearings on the matter, Rapozo said.

Hubbard disagreed with Rapozo’s

assessment, saying: “I don’t believe it is the job of the Salary Commission to

tell the County Council what to do.”

Rapozo also noted it would not be

fiscally wise to cover the salary increases with surplus funds.

“What if

something happens, where all of a sudden, there is no surplus,” Rapozo said.

Administrative Assistant Wallace Rezentes Sr. has said the island’s

economy has improved significantly and that more revenues to the county will

cover the costs of the proposed salary increases.

Mickens said the economy

isn’t doing well and that the proposed raises, if implemented, would pose

financial hardship for residents.

Residents have been hit hard with higher

property tax rates, gas tax rates and, more recently, a sizable jump in

gasoline prices, Mickens said.

“It is an added burden to us,” Mickens said.

“Whether our officials are making what they think they deserve is unimportant

at this stage of the game,” he said.

The Salary Commission, Mickens said,

should look into whether there are enough funds to cover any salary increases,

even though the body isn’t tasked to do so.

Hubbard said it isn’t the

Salary Commission’s job to determine whether there are sufficient funds to

cover the salary increases. “That is the County Council.”

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