It pays well to be mayor of Honolulu
A suggested salary of $128K is the highest for an elected official and would still outpace the governor's
The mayor of Honolulu will continue to be the highest-paid elected official in state or county government in Hawaii, outpacing the governor in salary.
The city Salary Commission is recommending the mayor's salary jump 5 percent to $128,100 a year in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. If it goes into effect, it would be the third straight year of a pay increase for the city's chief executive. The mayor currently makes $122,000.
The salary recommendations for the mayor and other city officials are not quite a done deal, but it appears likely that they will go through. The increases go into effect 60 days after adopted by the commission unless the recommendations are rejected by seven of nine City Council members. Councilmembers would also get a 5 percent raise under the recommendations.
"I haven't heard a thing from anyone about them," Budget Chairman Todd Apo said. "My reaction is that they're reasonable, and I still say if you want to get good people running your city, you have to pay them, so in my view it's a good investment."
Meanwhile, the governor's salary is slated to go up, but will still be lower than the pay of Honolulu's mayor. The governor's salary is currently $112,000 and will rise to $117,600 beginning July 1.
In 2004 a state commission wanted the governor's salary to be the same as the Honolulu mayor's pay of $112,000. But by the time it went into effect in 2006, the mayor was making $122,000.
Now the governor is getting a pay raise to $117,000 starting July 1. But the city Salary Commission recommends that the mayor make $128,000 starting July 1.
The Honolulu City Council could ultimately decide whether the mayor's pay goes up 5 percent -- or Mayor Mufi Hannemann could request the Council to reject his pay raise.
The city Salary Commission is proposing 4.5 to 10 percent raises for elected and appointed city officials.
The mayor, City Council members and chairman will have their pay go up by 5 percent.
Department heads' pay will rise by 4.5 percent, the police and fire chiefs' by 6 percent and the prosecutor's by 10 percent, and the prosecutor's first deputy will see an 8 percent raise.
The sharp rise in the prosecutor and first-deputy pay is designed to keep those salaries in pace with the pay of the police and fire chiefs and their deputies. Those officials would be making about $8,000 to $10,000 more a year than the top two prosecutors.
The higher pay of the mayor as opposed to the governor has been a continuing trend.
Between 2001 and 2005 the mayor's salary stayed at $112,000, but the governor's pay also stayed the same.
"I think the commonsense look at that is that the governor should be making either equivalent to or more than the mayor's position," Council Budget Chairman Todd Apo said. "But it's a unique situation where the Salary Commission controls what the salaries are of that group of people."
Apo said he believes that the mayor's salary is about right given the size of the city and the responsibilities.
"I don't think there's any science to it. I think it's just a feel, and again my personal sense is that it's a reasonable pay rate for the position," Apo said. "It allows you to make it attractive enough to get good potential candidates."
Apo also said that there is also an element of public service in any elected position.
"Being in government, it says, 'Hey, you shouldn't be making the same amount you could be making in the private (sector) having the same types of responsibilities,'" Apo said. "Where that rate falls between $100,000 and $150,000, I think that's about the right range."
By city law the raises take effect 60 days after adopted by the Commission unless seven of nine councilmembers vote down the salary proposals.
"In the grand scheme of things, elected and appointed city officials are only a small portion of the budget, but the problem is that, as I contend, when you have government spending at a rate higher than inflation, it is not sustainable," Councilman Charles Djou said. "It is not sustainable and that's the problem."
Djou said the governor gets perks that the mayor does not have, including living in the governor's mansion and having a car, driver and security detail.
"Still, though, I know that it still doesn't quite make sense that the mayor of Honolulu gets paid more than the governor at this point," Djou said.
Apo said that with the city having difficulty attracting qualified people in appointed positions and getting candidates to run for elected office, pay is a consideration.
"These are the not the kinds of positions that you want to have marginal candidates," Apo said.
The city Salary Commission is recommending the following pay increases for elected and appointed city officials:
4.5 PERCENT RAISE
» Managing director to $120,699
» Deputy managing director, $114,396
» Department heads, $112,704
» Deputy department heads, $106,956
» Royal Hawaiian Band director, $112,704
» Mayor, $128,100
» City Council chairman, $55,020
» City Council members, $49,245
» Police and fire chiefs, $126,141
» Deputy chiefs, $120,312
» First deputy prosecutor, $110,538
» Prosecutor, $118,635
The increases go into effect 60 days after adopted by the commission unless seven of nine City Council members reject the recommendations.