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Thursday, September 7, 2000

Kauai residents
voice opposition
to pay raises

By Anthony Sommer
Kauai correspondent

LIHUE -- Only six people showed up to testify at the Kauai County Council yesterday on a proposed pay hikes for the mayor, county prosecutor and more than 30 top county officials, all political appointees. No one spoke in favor of the proposal.

All the speakers opposed the pay raises recommended by the County Salary Commission. The proposal calls for giving Mayor Maryanne Kusaka and Prosecutor Michael Soong a 10 percent pay raise. All department heads and their deputies would receive from 1 percent to 10 percent.

Kusaka had requested an across-the-board 14 percent pay hike for herself and her top officials. Her request was based solely on raises received by union employees since 1995, the last time Kauai officials got a raise. Until last year, lack of Council interest in giving out pay raises resulted in the failure of the mayor and Council to appoint salary commissions for three consecutive years, even though it is required annually by the County Charter.

Kusaka's current pay of $73,118 is the lowest of the state's four mayors. A 10-percent increase would nudge her just past the mayor of Hawaii County, who makes $78,564.

Opponents said that if the county has the money available for pay raises, it should use it for county programs instead.

"Public safety is in shambles. Parks and Rec is in shambles," said Mel Rapozo, a former Kauai police officer involved with numerous youth sports leagues on the island. Another witness agreed, saying the island needs more lifeguards and lifeguard stations in light of a dramatic increase in drownings in recent years.

John Barretto, a former councilman who is seeking to return to the Council this year, said any increase should apply only to future administrations, not the current one, and should be placed on the ballot as a referendum.

"We're talking about pay raises for people who already are some of the best-paid people on Kauai," he said.

Glenn Mickens, a retired college baseball coach who bird-dogged the Salary Commission at each of its many meetings, said the money "should be used for those making $20,000 and under, not $70,000 and over."

When the Council will vote on the proposal is up in the air, although it was clear none of the members, all up for re-election, want to do it right before the Sept 23 primary. Council Finance Committee Chairman Jimmy Tokioka said he would poll the Council members before setting a date for an initial vote by his committee.

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