Editor’s note: This special report includes three other stories:

It costs Honolulu taxpayers about $88,000 on average to compensate a city employee, a Civil Beat analysis has found.

The city has a budget of nearly $2 billion, with about half of that going toward payroll for its work force of 10,500 employees.

The City and County of Honolulu gets the bulk of its funding from taxes and revenue from services such as sewers, refuse and public transportation, with property taxes leading the way.

The city is spending $670.54 million on salaries for fiscal 2011, which began July 1. That includes nearly $40 million the city set aside to fund more than 1,000 vacant positions. It’s spending another $252.8 million on additional employee compensation, including pension contributions, health benefits, and accrued vacation pay-outs. The total compensation cost is about $924 million.

Civil Beat filed a request under Hawaii’s open records law asking for the names, positions and salaries of all city employees. Providing data on how government works and how it spends taxpayer funds is central to our commitment to the importance of transparency. It’s also important for public employees to know that they’re being paid fairly in comparison with their colleagues.

(You can also read articles about state salaries, University of Hawaii salaries, Department of Education salaries, pay at Hawaii Health Systems Corp., the Legislature and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.)

The city provided a list of 8,4611 employees and their salaries, including 534 employees at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, a semi-autonomous branch. The data does not reflect pay reductions caused by twice-monthly furloughs, which began July 1 for about 5,000 city employees. Newly-elected Mayor Peter Carlisle has said he would consider cutting city workers pay, or eliminating jobs as a way to end furloughs.

Here is the data as provided by the city’s Department of Human Resources and the Board of Water Supply.

Civil Beat has created a searchable database for full members to make the data more accessible. Here’s an example of such a database.

  1. The list did not include 2,072 sworn police officers. Civil Beat is in talks with the Honolulu Police Department about those salaries.

The city initially balked at our request and asked the state’s Office of Information Practices to weigh in on whether it needed to release names along with salaries. OIP’s acting director issued an opinion saying the state’s Uniform Information Practices Act “requires the city to disclose the name, title and salaries for all city employees … unless an employee is or was in an undercover law enforcement capacity.”

The state’s open records law protects the actual salaries of employees in collective bargaining units, and only requires a range be disclosed. The actual salaries of some unionized city employees were included in the report from the city, including salaries for positions where there are no steps or grades to advance in that job title.

A look at the city’s payroll expenses [pdf] shows it’s spending $924 million this fiscal year on salaries and benefits, representing a little more than half its $1.83 billion operating budget:

  • $670.54 million for base salaries, including vacant funded positions
  • $109.58 million to the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund
  • $97.54 million for retirement and pension contributions
  • $26.5 million for the FICA payroll tax
  • $13.25 million for Workers’ Compensation
  • $5.93 million for salary adjustments and accrued vacation pay
  • $770,000 for unemployment compensation

The city has told Civil Beat that fringe benefits and leave benefits for city workers make up 60 percent of salary costs. City employees earn 21 vacation days each year starting from the first year of employment. They also earn sick leave at the same rate as vacation, 21 days a year. And just as the state does, the city observes 13 paid holidays a year and 14 during an election year.

The salary data from the city did not link employees with the departments they work in. But its fiscal 2011 budget [pdf] shows the Honolulu Police Department and Department of Transportation Services have the largest salary budgets — $201.96 million and $119.28 million, respectively.

City Department Allotment for Salaries
Department of Budget and Fiscal Services $17.05 million
Department of Community Services $9.7 million
Department of Corporation Counsel $5.31 million
Department of Customer Service $11.65 million
Department of Design and Construction $10.89 million
Department of Emergency Management $769,678
Department of Emergency Services $27.10 million
Department of Enterprise Services $10.8 million
Department of Environmental Services $56.25 million
Department of Facility Maintenance $28.03 million
Department of Human Resources $5.05 million
Department of Information Technology $8.1 million
Department of Parks and Recreation $37.2 million
Department of Planning and Permitting $15.06 million
Department of the Prosecuting Attorney $14.3 million
Department of Transportation Services $119.28 million
Executive (Mayor and Managing Director) $2.92 million
Fire Department $87.32 million
Police Department $201.96 million
Royal Hawaiian Band $1.7 million
Total $670.54 million

Beyond operating costs, the city is spending $335.4 million on what it labels “debt service” (bond principal and interest) and $283.9 million on “miscellaneous” costs. The miscellaneous category includes the added employee compensation costs as well as money for such things as grants, risk management, settlements and special events.

A Civil Beat analysis of the data found the highest-paid city employee makes $100,700 less than the highest-paid state employee (Hint: it’s not the mayor). We also found the lowest paid employees of the city earn the same starting range as the lowest-paid state workers — between $21,948 and $33,756.

Civil Beat’s analysis also found that only 6 percent of city workers — 508 employees — have a unique title. The rest have positions that appear at least twice on the payroll.

An entry-level firefighter is the most common position in the city, with 467 employees working as a “Fire Fighter I,” a position that pays between $48,324 and $63,564. Other common positions include groundskeepers (257 employees); police radio dispatchers (112 employees); deputy prosecuting attorneys (103 employees); refuse collectors (83 employees); senior clerk typists (155 employees); and zoo animal keepers (34 employees).

Here’s a list of the 10 most common positions in the city.

Position Employees
Fire Fighter I 467
Attendant Services 373
Grounds keeper 257
Fire Fighter III 242
Program Aide (Swimming) 216
Recreation Aide 212
Fire Captain 193
Senior Clerk Typist 155
Water Safety Officer II 139
Mobile Emergency Care Specialist I 128

A few other interesting things we found:

  • City salaries range from a low of $21,948 to a high of $153,852.
  • Approximately 43 percent of city employees make more than Hawaii’s mean annual wage of $42,760. (The exact figure isn’t clear because the city is not required to disclose actual salaries for unionized workers, just ranges.)
  • The city pays its employees fairly well, with less than two dozen on staff earning so little as to be eligible for food stamps. (Eligibility for federal food assistance for a single person caps out at $24,936.)
  • A total of 1,384 city employees are paid hourly instead of an annual salary. Hourly positions include musicians ($50 an hour); fireworks inspectors ($25 an hour); a police evidence custodian ($16 an hour); ushers (presumably for events at the Neal Blasidell; $11 an hour); rifle range attendants ($13 an hour) and a transit real property acquisition officer ($58 an hour).

This is the full database of all city employees.

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