LIHUE — Some county employees will be receiving salary increases in July.
Failing to achieve the five votes needed to reject a resolution from the salary commission that would increase salaries for top tier employees, the Kauai County Council voted 4 to 3 against the resolution Wednesday.
Councilmembers Mason Chock, JoAnn Yukimura and Arryl Kaneshiro voted against the motion to reject, saying the county needs to raise salaries to be competitive with other counties.
“There’s never a good time to raise salaries,” Kaneshiro said. “We have to do what is in the best interest for the county in the long-run. We want to do good, and we want to keep people who are doing a good job.”
Yukimura added: “It’s very important that we support good management, and I think passing this resolution would be the right thing to do.”
Councilmembers Ross Kagawa, KipuKai Kualii, Gary Hooser and Mel Rapozo, council chair, voted to reject the resolution.
“Our job on the council is to manage the budget and spend within our means,” Kagawa said. “At this time, we don’t need to be proposing any significant taxes and fees on our people. I find it irresponsible to vote for any salary increases of this large magnitude.”
Effective July 1, positions such as the mayor, prosecuting attorney, chief of police and fire chief will be getting raises. A total of 23 positions will see a pay hike.
The salaries suggested by the commission are maximum caps — the mayor’s salary cap is $132,000, an almost $10,000 increase from July 2015. The cap for the prosecuting attorney is $119,357, a $4,500 increase from last year.
Because the suggestions are the maximum, it’s up to the heads of the departments how much of a raise the employees will be getting, Kaneshiro said.
The new resolution does not include raises for council members.
“I’m baffled,” Rapozo said. “For some reason, the salary commission, by this resolution, decided the county council of the future, not us, was not worthy of the salary they originally said the council deserved.”
As per the original proposal, the suggested salary for councilmembers was $63,140, a $6,000 increase from last year.
The salaries of the bottom tier county employees were also set Wednesday.
In a 5-2 vote, the council voted to reject a resolution that set salary increases for positions like the director of economic development, the director of liquor control and the county auditor.
During the discussion, Kagawa said the separation between the top and bottom tier was not acceptable.
“Cutting in half was totally wrong,” he said. “Either you take all of the salary increases, or you take none. You don’t split it in half and say half our work is the better half.”
“It’s all or nothing,” he said. “This is supposed to be about positions, not the personalities. But it has to be about personalities. Otherwise, where is the justification. The council is not doing its job when it comes to the budget.”
For Yukimura, the split is a balancing act.
“We’re balancing the constrains of the budget with our other responsibilities,” she said.