LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A decision by Kauai's mayor to offer all full-time county employees two paid days off during the holidays is drawing major criticism from some councilmembers.
Council chair Mel Rapozo says the county is in no financial position to be gifting paid days off to its workers.
He says the paid leave equals about $600,000 for the county's nearly 1,200 employees.
"I look at the cost of labor as a cost. It's an expenditure. And $600,000 for our island is a significant amount of money. It's not because we don't appreciate our employees, it's just that we have been having financial issues," Rapozo said.
On December 6, the council approved increasing Kauai's general excise tax from 4 percent to 4.5 percent -- starting January 1, 2019.
The tax hike is expected to generate $25 million a year for road and traffic congestion improvements.
Rapozo says the day after the vote, Mayor Bernard Carvalho sent a letter to county workers offering the time off.
"When I saw the memo from the mayor and saw it was two days, initially I thought it was a typo. I think the timing was just wrong. I think the message is wrong. And simply, I don't think we can afford it," Rapozo said.
Mayor Carvalho says he stands by his decision.
He argues that during his tenure as mayor, county workers were not granted holiday leave from 2009 to 2011, and also endured unpaid furloughs in 2010.
"The granting of admin leave is my small way of thanking our employees and showing my gratitude for the work they have done and continue to do. It was my decision to grant holiday leave and I believe all of our employees deserve it," Carvalho said in a statement.