While taxpayers struggle, city leaders consider raises
The mayor, members of the City Council and administrators stand to get pay raises for a second year in a row.
HONOLULU residents tallying up the hits their pocketbooks have taken with recent increases in taxes can be forgiven if they don't look too kindly on a proposal to raise the pay of the city's elected and appointed officials
Even though some officials, such as the police and fire chiefs, might be due better salaries, the all-or-none system through which raises are extended leaves little choice but for us to say no.
The city Salary Commission is looking to give department heads and their deputies raises of between 3 and 5 percent, but bundled in the package are increases for the mayor and members of the City Council, whose job performances some consider lacking.
The City Council cannot change the percentage or amount of pay raises recommended by the Salary Commission, but can reject increases for individuals, such as department directors, while allowing other raises to go through.*
In addition, raises go into effect automatically -- unless the Council votes to reject them.
The method lets Council members off the hook, allowing passive consent to give themselves more money. It lets them argue that because a department head deserves a pay increase, they will not turn away the entire package.
The raises would be the second time in as many years that the Council did not act to disapprove. Last year, officials received a 4 percent raise.
Meanwhile, taxpayers have seen boosts in sewer fees, motor vehicle weight charges, parking fees, bus fares and other tolls.
Soaring home prices have fueled property valuation increases averaging 26 percent this year, and soon to come is a 0.5 percent rise in excise taxes as well as possible hikes in water rates. Also looming is a huge bill for repairing the city's long-neglected sewage system and costs to restore flood-damaged infrastructure.
The city expects to collect an additional $125 million in revenue in fiscal 2007 from property taxes. Though Council members -- who now get $45,084 for their part-time jobs -- and Mayor Hannemann -- who is paid $116,688 a year -- have been jockeying to figure out a way to lighten the financial burden on taxpayers, they've put off decisions until they craft a budget plan.
In making its pay-raise recommendations, the commission is not required to take into account the city's revenue status or the economic outlook. Instead, it looks at what union workers are paid so that with each increase they receive, salaries for non-union managers would need to keep pace. The commission also irrelevantly considers what officials in other counties and states are paid.
Ann Kobayashi, the Council's budget chairwoman, says funds already have been earmarked for the raises and won't present a struggle for the city. She and other Council members should not be so loose with taxpayers' money.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
» The City Council cannot change the percentage or amount of pay raises recommended by the Salary Commission, but can reject increases for individuals, such as department directors, while allowing other raises to go through. An editorial Sunday said incorrectly that the commission's recommendations can be considered only as a whole.