Bad decision on salaries

The decisions by the Maui County Salary Commission to increase the salaries of the mayor and County Council members by double-digit percentages give a terrible message to the public and to other county employees.

In February, the commission bumped the mayor’s salary up 19 percent, from $114,030 to $135,696 annually. Earlier this month, they decided council members should get a 15 percent raise to $76,475 from $66,500. Council chair will go from $71,500 to $82,225.

The raises are effective July 1.

The raises come at a time when fees, rates and taxes are going up in Maui County. Anyone who doubts that has not registered a car, paid a water bill (those rates are going even higher) or seen his property tax bill for this year.

The justification for the stiff hikes is that they haven’t been raised since 2007. We’d bet that a good portion of the private sector is making less than they were before the recession – and nobody is going to give them a double-digit raise to make things right.

Also, what expectations do such raises give rank-and-file county employees? They suffered during the recession, too. Should they expect a nice round 10 to 20 percent raise next year?

A much more sensible approach would have been 2 to 3 percent hikes per annum for the next three years with a promise to review them again when those hikes are fulfilled.

And contrast these increases to what other governmental leaders are doing. On April 16, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell not only turned down a 9 percent raise recommended by his salary commission, he refused to take a 5 percent “snapback” to a pre-recession salary.

President Barack Obama just took a voluntary 5 percent pay cut to show solidarity with those affected by sequestration. Our U.S. House Representative, Tulsi Gabbard, also voluntarily gave up 5 percent of her pay for the same reason.

Double-digit increases in a single year simply smack of greed. By accepting these pay hikes, the mayor and council will set a terrible example.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.