In the midst of a workforce shortage, some city positions are getting big pay boosts, Civil Beat’s Salary Database shows.

Editor’s note: Civil Beat is updating its Public Employee Salary Database for the 2024 fiscal year that began July 1. Click here to see the latest salaries from available state and county agencies, as well as all information for prior fiscal years dating back to 2011 and a portal to related articles. Some agencies like the Department of Education are still being updated.

The City and County of Honolulu has been losing deputy prosecuting attorneys over the past two years, prompting a move to higher salaries for those positions. 

The number of deputy prosecuting attorneys decreased about 18% from fiscal year 2022 to fiscal year 2024 — from 96 to 79. In previous years, that number hovered from 95 to 108.

The city’s budget includes money for about 120 prosecuting attorneys.

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm points to the higher salaries offered by other departments as the lure for some of his office employees.

“What was a real change was, in the 2021 session, the Legislature gave the Attorney General’s Office $3.3 million for raises. And we’ve lost about 14 deputies there,” said Alm.

Honolulu Prosecutor Steven Alm speaks to media that the office will not have a third trial involving federal law enforcement officer Christopher Deede.
Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm is hoping that increased starting salaries for deputy prosecuting attorneys will help his department attract and retain them. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021)

The decrease in personnel in Alm’s office can be seen in the latest iteration of Civil Beat’s Public Employee Salary database, which provides the ability to search the payroll information from 19 public entities, including, the City and County of Honolulu, the Hawaii Public Charter School Commission and the Judiciary. Other agencies will be updated by the end of the calendar year.

The database was last updated in 2021 and beyond salaries, also shows how many people are employed by each department and how those numbers change over time. 

As of July 1, the number of total employees in the city’s executive branch, including the prosecuting attorneyʻs office, was 9,800, down from 9,976 in fiscal year 2022 and 10,440 in fiscal year 2020. 

Beyond a decline in the number deputy prosecuting attorneys, the pandemic increased employees’ caseloads, according to Alm.

A Readerʻs Guide To Civil Beatʻs Public Employee Salary Database

“People kept getting charged with crimes, but there were no trials,” he said. 

One unit that recently decreased in size is the appeals division. That’s because there is a lag effect between the number of cases heard in court and the number of appeals filed from those hearings. 

A lack of court hearings during the pandemic means that, at least for now, there are fewer appeals to handle, said Alm.

The starting salary for deputy prosecuting attorneys was $73,000 in fiscal year 2022 and about $82,000 at the beginning of fiscal year 2024, which started July 1.

The pay increased again to $90,000 as of Sept. 1. Civil Beat’s Public Employee Salary Database does not yet reflect the most recent raises. 

Alm sees these changes as helping the recruitment and retention effort. The number of deputy prosecuting attorneys is currently around 87, he said. “Now, our salaries are competitive with all the other government agencies and even with private firms.”  

Public Employees Salary Database

Search the salaries of public employees.

Database updated: October 3, 2023.
Check back for updated public employee salaries for the 2024 fiscal year.

Salary Rankings Unchanged

The Department of the Prosecuting Attorney is not the only Honolulu department raising wages. 

Earlier this year, the Honolulu Salary Commission did its annual work of recommending salary raises for top city employees. 

The commissioners recommended a controversial 64% pay increase for City Council members, deciding that salaries were too low compared to their expected duties. 

Salaries went from about $69,000 to about $113,000 for council members and from about $77,000 to about $123,000 for the council chair. These pay increases are visible in salary data for the Honolulu Legislative Branch – including the pay rates of council members Andria Tupola, Augie Tulba and Radiant Cordero, who rejected the raises. 

The Salary Commission also recommended increasing wages for all top officials under its jurisdiction, including the medical examiner, ensuring that role remains the city’s highest-paid employee, above even the mayor.

The mayor’s salary is by no means low. At about $210,000 – up from about $186,000 earlier this year, per the Salary Commission’s recommendation – it is higher than that of the governor. 

But eight employees still earn more. In addition to the medical examiner, they include the director of rapid transportation, the police chief, the deputy director of rapid transportation, the fire chief, two deputy police chiefs, and the deputy fire chief. 

While medical examiner Mayasiko Kobayashi’s salary went up this year from $310,000 to about $363,000, the deputy medical examiner’s salary went up even more dramatically, from about $273,000 to about $354,000.

That’s close to a 30% increase.

The fortunate recipient? Nobody.

This role has been vacant since the previous medical examiner stepped down and Kobayashi took his place. 

“We haven’t been able to hire anybody for three years – for more than three years,” testified Kobayashi at a Salary Commission meeting in March. “This is a problem.”

The city’s hiring dilemma continues to be one of its big challenges. A shortage of workers often means a contraction of city services – whether that be in quality, quantity or both.

For more than 500 city employees, the starting salary remains less than $50,000.

They include over a dozen 911 emergency response operators and about 300 groundskeepers; though both of these positions' salaries grew slightly compared to fiscal year 2022.

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