Commission seeks pay raise for police, fire chiefs

LIHU‘E — Almost two months after crafting a resolution to keep salaries of county officials and department heads frozen until July 1, 2013, the Kaua‘i Salary Commission on Monday decided to ask for pay increases beginning July 1 for the county’s police chief, fire chief and their deputy chiefs.

“If you want top-quality people, you have got to be willing to pay them,” Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry told commissioners.

“One of the main reasons, and let me get this clear, for the increase in salary is not basically for myself,” Perry said.

“What we are trying to do here is to form some type of succession plan to get the best qualified people.”

On March 1, the commission sent a resolution to the Kaua‘i County Council to  keep the salaries of all county elected and appointed officials frozen until July 1, 2013. On Monday, the commission — against a recommendation from Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. — unanimously voted to craft a new resolution in May to supersede the current one.

On April 13, Kaua‘i County Council Chair Jay Furfaro sent a letter to the commission asking for an increase in the pay rates of 11 positions, including those of top personnel from the county’s fire and police departments.

“The rationale for raising the salaries of the police and fire chiefs and their respective deputies is that public safety demands that the County of Kaua‘i recruit and retain the best qualified people for the positions,” Furfaro said in the letter.

On April 18, Carvalho sent a letter to the commission, explaining his position against any pay raises.

“I am in agreement with the council that all of the positions covered by the Salary Resolution are deserving of the increased salary caps that have been previously proposed,” Carvalho said in the letter.

 “However, I also feel that, due to the economic climate and the fact that we will be asking line-level employees to go an additional year without pay increases, this is not the time to raise salaries for those positions,” the mayor wrote.

The salaries of the majority of county officials have been frozen since Dec. 1, 2008.

However, some officials received pay increases on Dec. 1, 2009, including all County Council members, the prosecuting attorney, county auditor, county clerk and deputy county clerk.

Salary Commission members agreed Monday to meet May 14 and craft a new resolution.

Commissioner Randy Finlay said the new resolution would go “on top” of the current resolution, affecting only the salaries of top police and fire personnel.

The resolution will proposed to bump the salaries of the police and fire chiefs to $114,490; the same pay Carvalho receives.

The police and fire chiefs currently each make $107,335 annually, and the deputy police and fire chiefs each make $98,748 annually. The resolution will also propose to bump the salaries of each of the deputy police and fire chiefs to $105,660.

On July 1, 2013, Carvalho’s salary is scheduled to increase to $122,504. The police and fire chiefs are also scheduled for an increase, to $114,848.

The Kaua‘i Police Department has the most veteran police chief in the state. Yet, he is the lowest paid police chief, according to Police Commissioner Charles Iona.

“We are asking what is fair,” Iona said.

Iona told the County Council a few weeks ago that the Big Island police chief makes $114,768 annually, the Maui police chief makes $135,000 annually and Honolulu’s police chief earns $136,236 annually.

Salary Commissioner Sheri Kunioka-Volz said she thought it was unfair to compare Kaua‘i with the Big Island, which has a department twice the size of Kaua‘i’s department, or with Honolulu, which has a department five times larger than Kaua‘i’s police department.

Perry, however, said he learned from his discussions with police chiefs from other counties that the workload he has is much larger compared to other police chiefs. The discrepancy is due to a lack of support staff on Kaua‘i, he said.

“You have to do a lot more work here,” said Perry, comparing himself to a shop owner who has to wear many hats.

Because a police chief and deputy chief hold positions that are not covered by labor unions, many lower-ranked officers can make substantially more than their superiors.

Last year, there were officers, detectives and captains who made more than $113,000, and sergeants and assistant chiefs who made more than $120,000 with overtime, according to Iona.

Boards and Commissions Administrator Paula Murakami said the county has a hard time filling engineering positions due to competition with the private sector, which traditionally offers higher pay.

Furfaro, in his April 13 letter, also asked the Salary Commission to consider raising the salaries of the county engineer, deputy county engineer and other engineering positions with the county’s Water Department.

“It is in the best interest of the County of Kaua‘i to attract and retain highly qualified professionals,” Furfaro said in the letter.

“In order to remain competitive, the county should consider raising the pay for these positions.”

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