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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 19, 2010

Pay raises frozen for Big Isle council

By Jason Armstrong
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Hawai'i County Council members fortunate enough to win re-election this year won't be rewarded with an automatic 2 percent pay raise.

Salaries for the nine lawmakers will be frozen "until further notice," the Hawai'i County Salary Commission decided in a unanimous vote on Wednesday.

Current economic conditions don't justify granting raises when a council member starts a new two-year term, Commissioner Margaret Tokunaga said.

Commissioners did not debate her motion before voting 6-0 to deny "step movements" that give lawmakers roughly a $1,000 annual raise. The commission has nine members when all seats are filled.

The council's Finance Committee was meeting in Keauhou when the commission made its decision. No lawmakers testified before the commission.

Depending on how long each has served, lawmakers now earn between $47,928 and $50,928 a year, according to information the Department of Human Services provided to the commission.

Freshmen council members Dennis Onishi of Hilo, Guy Enriques of Ka'ū and Kelly Greenwell of North Kona each earn the minimum salary, commissioners were told.

Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole-Beason, Hāmākua Councilman Dominic Yagong and South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford are paid $48,924 a year, which is step "B."

Chairman J Yoshimoto is also at that second step, but his pay is $54,336. The chairman receives more money than the other members, earning between $53,220 and $56,544 a year.

Being paid the step "C" amount of $49,920 annually are Hilo Councilman Donald Ikeda and Pete Hoffmann of Kohala.

The county is facing a $45 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1, Mayor Billy Kenoi told council members last month.

That looming deficit will balloon to $62 million should the state Legislature carry out its threat to withhold the $17.4 million in hotel room tax revenues that Hawai'i County receives each year.