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Hawaii County approves increases in salary for firefighters

June 6, 2019

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — The Hawaii County Council has approved salary increases and bonuses for firefighters, officials said.

Three county council members switched their votes Tuesday to unanimously pass the raises, West Hawaii Today reported Wednesday.

The compensation package features a 2% salary increase for each of two years, bonuses of $1,500 to $2,000 annually and a 2% increase in regular pay based on years of service, known as step increases, officials said.

The package is expected to cost the Big Island county an extra $7 million over two years in its payroll budget of about $30 million annually, which is about 10% more than the current expenditure, officials said.

Councilors Maile David, Valerie Poindexter and Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder said information provided by the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association answered the questions that initially led them to vote against the proposal.

The situation was difficult because an arbitration panel pointed to a good bond rating as evidence the county can afford the compensation package, David said.

“I’m concerned for the future of the county’s financial position,” David said. “When raises are based on our good rating, it really puts somewhat of a burden on us to maintain that rating no matter what else comes up.”

Hawaii Fire Fighters Association President Bobby Lee disputed the county’s contention that the council has the right to not fund the compensation package reached through arbitration.

“It is legal and binding and it should be funded,” Lee said. “If you enter into arbitration, everyone lives with the decision.”

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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