Proposed increases in salaries, taxes a quandary

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.

  1. Uncleaina December 5, 2017 6:26 am Reply

    JoAnn is gonna take her money to expand the bus system even further despite the fact the buses run almost empty all day long. And despite the fact they still have no online schedule posted. And the $126M numbers was completely made up – it’s the amount needed to resurface every country road! Yes the roads that are the worst are State roads and our council can’t even get those fixed despite there being millions of dollars set aside for it. Raising my taxes seems pretty stupid as I sit in a giant pothole on Kuhio Highway and watch yet another empty bus drive by – but neither of these problems are addressed. Just another example of our exceptionally poor leadership!

  2. kauaidog December 5, 2017 8:56 am Reply

    Wow, I work full time get little in benefits and would have to work almost 4 years to make what these folks do. I am not listening to voters, or keeping parks clean or providing safety to the community but I knew when moving here 11 years ago the money would not be the same as on the mainland. It is hard for me to look at these salaries and wonder why these people need more money and or what do they do to deserve a raise? If they want to go somewhere else to make more money then GO. I have been truly blessed to live here living on 1/4 of what the county workers make, not to mention holidays, perks and bennies. Some satisfaction in knowing they have to drive the same bumpy, congested roads I do.

  3. Craig Millett December 5, 2017 9:10 am Reply

    All aboard the the gravy train served up by the tax payers of Kauai.
    Remember this when its time to vote next year.

  4. Mel Rapozo December 5, 2017 11:37 am Reply

    The GET surcharge increase (.5%) was voted on at last Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting where it passed by a 5-1 vote. Councilmember Brun was excused and did not vote. The final vote will be made tomorrow at the full Council meeting which starts at 8:30am, not 8am as stated in the article. I voted against it last week, and will vote against it again tomorrow.

    The salary increases are being proposed by the Salary Commission, and will also be heard tomorrow. The Council will have the opportunity to accept or reject the proposal. I cannot speak for the other members but I will not be supporting the salary increases. I cannot see how we can justify a tax increase and salary increases at the same meeting. It just doesn’t seem right.

    Let your feelings be known. Your comments are welcome here and you can submit testimony to

    Mahalo for staying involved.

  5. RG DeSoto December 5, 2017 2:19 pm Reply

    Here’s a novel idea, Mel: Cut spending on the many useless, inefficient and wasteful (mostly social) programs. Whittle your spending down to the real functions of a county government: Police, fire, roads and maybe parks. No more feel-good programs designed to pander for votes.
    As usual your admonition to “stay involved” is empty rhetoric…nonsense really because your mind has been made up…just milk us taxpayers.
    RG DeSoto

  6. JOSE E BULATAO December 5, 2017 6:16 pm Reply

    Does anyone have any information which reveals comparatively the salaries of municipal government public officials that may be similar to ours here on Kauai? Are we at the low or high end in comparison to what those entities are paying out? There is the “cost of living” factor and we certainly should paying our public officials a decent wage, no matter what. At the same time, however, let’s be sure that there are ways in which clarity, transparency, and accountability of their accomplishments can be reviewed and reported! By and large, I have great faith, trust, and confidence in the integrity of our public officials. But, I must admit, I have not taken the time to get to know what the extent of their duties and responsibilities are and whether each of them are being compensated equitably or not in carrying out their duties.

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