Editor’s note: Civil Beat is updating its Public Employee Salaries Database for the 2022 fiscal year that began July 1. Click here to see the latest from all state agencies, as well as all information for prior fiscal years dating back to 2011 and a portal to related articles. We’ll update with county data as it comes in.

The payroll keeps growing, but the number of public employees in state government has been stable over the last decade.

And while many pay raises have recently been deferred, not even the coronavirus pandemic has changed the size of the workforce significantly.

There were about 48,600 state workers when fiscal year 2022 began July 1, according to employee salary information provided to Civil Beat by government agencies. That total was about 49,000 for fiscal year 2011, and it has hovered around 50,000 for the years in between.

But the salaries paid to Hawaii’s educators, correctional officers, legislators and other state workers have risen steadily over much of the same period.

Some of those jobs had seemed imperiled last year by the pandemic and conjecture about layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs.

Recent months have brought better news, including the revelation that state tax collections have soared back to pre-pandemic levels. Even with Covid-19 cases again on the rise and wreaking havoc in the private sector, state workers remain on the job.

So where exactly do things stand now when it comes to public employment in the islands?

Public Employees Salary Database


Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.

Using Hawaii’s public records law, Civil Beat requested salary information from all state and county governmental agencies. Most promptly sent us the data, some without charge, others for fees ranging from $10 to $140.

Civil Beat has been collecting and publishing public employee salary data since the news site launched in 2010. With more than a decade of data on public workers, job titles, salaries and pay ranges, among other things, we’re hoping to do some deep dives into how state and county agencies have changed over the years.

Stable Workforce, But Higher Paid

When it comes to the state payroll, the database shows that the pandemic affected Hawaii in several ways. Raises were deferred for top officials, and many public employee unions agreed to deferrals as well for the current fiscal year.

Even though furloughs and layoffs were avoided, many departments are not filling some of their vacant positions.

Still, the total number of state employees has been notably consistent over the past 11 years.

“We have been very stingy about creating new positions in state government,” House Speaker Scott Saiki says.

He noted that the additional cost of employee benefits — spending that is not reflected in the Civil Beat database — equates to about 50% of salaries.

What has changed is how much they are paid. The wide salary ranges that departments provided for many employees complicate any assessment, but if everyone was paid at the low end of the ranges, state salaries would have risen 28% since the 2011 fiscal year. Put all workers at the high end of the ranges, and pay would have increased 27%.

Those figures are similar to the 30.9% growth in per capita personal income among all Hawaii residents from 2010 to 2020, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Database.

Saiki said leaders of public employee unions should be pleased with what they’ve accomplished in collective bargaining over the last decade, because big cutbacks in workforce levels have been avoided, something that hadn’t always been the case in the private sector.

House Speaker Scott Saiki speaks during a Kakaako road repair press conference held on Kawaiahao Street.
House Speaker Scott Saiki says state workers should be pleased with how they have fared, even if most of them did not get raises for the 2022 fiscal year due to the pandemic. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

It’s been two years since Civil Beat updated the salary database, and most of the pay increases occurred in fiscal year 2021, which ended June 30. For the new fiscal year, the unions “recognized the reality of what we are facing” in the pandemic, Saiki said.

The pay increases for various state workers from the 2011 to the 2022 fiscal years can vary greatly. Here are three examples from the database:

— Schoolteachers: There were practically the same number of full-time public schoolteachers in the 2022 fiscal year (7,905) as in the 2011 fiscal year (7,897), according to Department of Education records.

The range of teacher salaries varied greatly, based on factors such as experience and training. The low end was $32,717 in 2011 and is $38,521 now. The high end was $79,170 in 2011 and $93,225 now.

In both cases that represents a 15% increase in the ranges, but whenever teachers moved into a higher level, they would have gotten bigger raises.

— Correctional officers: Hawaii’s correctional officers numbered 1,032 as of July 1 compared to 1,129 in fiscal year 2011.

The low end of the range for that job was $41,040 in 2011 and is $56,612 now, an increase of 27%. The high end was $64,572 in 2011 and is $78,984 now, an increase of 18%.

— Office assistants in the Department of Transportation: There were 69 such assistants as of July 1, and 65 in fiscal year 2011.

The low end of the range for those positions was $25,668 in 2011 and is $33,120 now, an increase of 22.5%. The high end was $42,684 in 2011 and is $52,044 now, an increase of almost 18%.

Football Coach Back On Top

In many states, the head football coach at the biggest university is always the highest-paid public employee. That hasn’t been the case in Hawaii during  recent fiscal years — until now.

Todd Graham became head coach of the Rainbow Warriors in January 2020 and as of July 1 he was No. 1 on the overall state payroll with an annual base salary of $800,000. Graham’s team finished with a 5-4 win-loss record in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, capped by a victory over the University of Houston in the New Mexico Bowl.

The University of Hawaii’s football coach is the top-paid state employee. Cory Lum / Civil Beat

Football coaches are ultimately judged by their team’s success, and that comes out to $160,000 per victory last season.

Graham replaced Nick Rolovich, whose $600,000 salary was second-highest on the state payroll in fiscal year 2020.

Graham’s current pay is far higher than the No. 2 spot on the state payroll, which belongs to Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Hedges is bringing home $554,988.

Hedges is followed by two staff physicians for the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, Kitty Victoria at $485,000 and Lovina Sabnani at $457,406.

HHSC doctors had been the top wage-earners among state employees for several previous years of the database, but the highest-paid doctors have departed, including Jay Boughanem, who was listed at $634,000 in fiscal year 2020.

The highest-paid HHSC doctors in the last decade were David Engle and Colin Lee, both of whom made $780,000 in fiscal year 2016.

But you have to return to the football field to find the top-paid state employee in the entire database and the only annual millionaire.

UH head coach Gregory McMackin made $1.1 million in fiscal year 2012 and just over $1 million in fiscal year 2011. Unlike more recent years, however, portions of his salary were covered by private boosters.

Coming soon: A closer look at some of the state departments in the database, and a first look at Hawaii’s four county governments.

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