UPDATED 4/25/2012 5:20 p.m.

What’s the single biggest line item on the city’s budget?

If you guessed rail, the sewage consent decree, road repair or water pipes, you’re only half-right. Picking up your trash and protecting you from fire and crime and drowning? Getting warmer.

The answer, of course, is the 10,000-plus employees that perform all these tasks for the government. They’re not really a single line item — trick question, I guess — but their compensation, including pay and benefits, takes up about half of Honolulu’s $2 billion operating budget.

Civil Beat is back with the second annual installment of its series on city government salaries.

Just like last year, we filed a request under Hawaii’s open records law asking for names, positions and salaries. We still think it’s important to shine a light on how government works — particularly how it spends taxpayer funds. We also believe it’s worth exploring if public employees are being paid fairly in comparison with their colleagues — and we’ve gone further with that investigation than ever before.

Our series this week will include articles about the highest paid city government employees, a look at who works for the city government and what they do for us, and a comparison of how men and women are paid by our city government. What we found might surprise you.

Our database this year includes 8,467 names — it’s missing some 2,000 police officers because the Honolulu Police Department has taken a stance that they could be undercover and thus their salaries shouldn’t be revealed in order to protect their safety.

Our list includes city employees as of July 1, 2011, so some recent hires (new Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation CEO Dan Grabauskas, for example) are not yet on there, and some since-departed city workers (former department directors Collins Lam and Sid Quintal, for example) are still on there.

UPDATED Many union employees have a salary range rather than a specific number. That covers a little over half of the workers in the database; the other half have an exact salary. Some earn an hourly wage instead of an annual salary — we assumed they work full-time so we could make apples-to-apples comparisons, but in reality they might be seasonal or part-time.1 Furthermore, some employees took pay cuts not reflected in the data.2

Because of the ranges and the wages, we can’t determine salary spending by department or agency. But our analysis of the city’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget shows how money was allocated:

Agency Salaries
Honolulu Police Department $196.3 Million
Department Of Transportation Services $118.9 Million
Honolulu Fire Department $86.2 Million
Environmental Services $58.8 Million
Department Of Parks And Recreation $38.0 Million
Department Of Facility Maintenance $29.2 Million
Emergency Services Department $27.3 Million
Department Of Planning And Permitting $15.4 Million
Budget And Fiscal Services $14.9 Million
Prosecuting Attorney $14.5 Million
Customer Service Department $12.0 Million
Department Of Enterprise Services $11.5 Million
Department Of Design And Construction $11.0 Million
Department Of Community Service $10.7 Million
Department Of Information Technology $8.4 Million
Corporate Counsel $5.3 Million
Department Of Human Resources $5.1 Million
Liquor Commission $2.2 Million
Royal Hawaiian Band $1.8 Million
Office Of The Managing Director $1.3 Million
Medical Examiner $1.1 Million
Department Of Emergency Management $799,776
Neighborhood Commission $642,324
Office Of The Mayor $439,640
Cultures And The Arts $262,448
Ethics Commission $198,288
Total $672.3

Source: Civil Beat analysis of Fiscal Year 2012 Budget

Overall, executive branch salaries are pretty much flat versus last year, when they accounted for $670.5 million of the $1.83 billion operating budget, or 37 percent. This year’s salaries are about 35 percent of the $1.92 billion budget. That fits in with Mayor Peter Carlisle‘s pledge to keep a lid on government spending.

The Honolulu Police Department’s salaries dipped from about $202 million to $196 million while Environmental Services grew from $56.25 million to $58.8 million. All others stayed within a million or two from last year’s levels.

The table isn’t exhaustive. There are employees of other agencies in our database: workers in the legislative branch (the Honolulu City Council and support staff) as well the semi-autonomous Board of Water Supply and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. But it gives a rough picture.

Without further ado, here’s the full database for your perusal:

Civil Beat’s Nanea Kalani and Lena Tran contributed to this report.


1. UPDATE For most employees, the number we received from the city was the amount the employee would see as gross pay in their twice-monthly paycheck. But when that number was less than $100, we assumed that the number was instead the employee’s hourly wage. There were approximately 1,500 employees who earn an hourly wage. To make an apples-to-apples comparison, we assumed for the purposes of our database that hourly employees work 40 hours per week and 52 weeks per year. But those are only assumptions, and many hourly employees do not work full-time. The city did not provide records showing how many hours an employee worked. The database has been updated to reflect which employees earn an hourly wage, denoting that their annual salaries have been calculated based on our assumptions and should not be taken as their actual annual salaries.

2. UPDATE: Unionized government employees saw their salaries revert back to pre-furlough levels on July 1, 2011. Twice-monthly furloughs had been equivalent to about a 10 percent pay cut. But that restoration of pay was followed by subsequent pay cuts.

Employees represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association subsequently received 5 percent pay cuts. Those in the United Public Workers union received wage cuts equal to a 5 percent reduction through so-called “directed leave without pay” days.

For executive positions and the city’s non-unionized workforce, Mayor Peter Carlisle last year imposed 5 percent pay cuts. He has again proposed maintaining those salary cuts for the upcoming fiscal year. His salary in the table above already includes a 15 percent pay cut, but others’ salaries do not necessarily include their pay cuts.

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