Mesa school teachers and staff will get a pay raise next year after four years of salary freezes.
The Mesa Unified School District governing board voted Tuesday night to give a 2.2 percent raise to teachers, nurses, counselors, audiologists, psychologists, and speech pathologists. All other employees, including support staff and certificated administrators, will get a 2 percent increase.
Staff will also see more pay for completing additional education, known as a “step” on the salary schedule.
According to a budget report on its website, Mesa school district is expecting about $2.5 million less from the state next school year because of declining enrollment. It also expects to receive $600,000 less in funding from the teacher experience index, funds given to districts based on the number of years their teachers have been working in the field.
But with the close of Mesa Junior High School, and the shifting of several Franklin back-to-basics programs to the Brimhall Junior High School campus, the district also anticipates $1.8 million in savings. Funds from the voter-approved Proposition 301, the education sales tax passed in 2000, are also expected to rise with the improved economy.
The district has also been given more freedom with how it spends some of its budget that was previously restricted, Superintendent Mike Cowan said Tuesday night.
“I’m excited to be able to do something on behalf of all our employees,” board member Mike Hughes said. “They have gone above and beyond. They have been asked consistently to do more with less. I want to thank all our employees.”
The district has had to eliminate positions in the last few years, though many of those employees have found jobs elsewhere due to retirement and attrition. Next year, the district should have about the same number of employees it has now: 3,800 certified employees and 5,600 classified staff.
Even though district employees’ salaries have technically been frozen over the past few years, their paychecks have gotten smaller.
“Employees have seen a reduction in take-home pay, primarily due to the ASRS (Arizona State Retirement System) contribution rate,” district spokeswoman Helen Hollands said.
There were no certified staff cuts this year, she said.
Cowan noted during Tuesday night’s meeting that this would be good news for the more than 9,000 district employees.
“This is a significant event. It’s significant for us if you look at what’s happened over the last few years for the state and the state of public schools,” Cowan said. “We have cut literally tens of millions of dollars and as a result of the budget crisis, we have been unable to provide any pay increases … While we’re not in a recovery mode in the economy, we’re in a somewhat stable position in that for the first time in several years we are not rallying behind a series of cuts or budget reductions for the year.”
A first year teacher in Mesa next year will receive a $34,352 base salary and supplemental pay of $1,766, for a total annual pay of $36,352.
A teacher with a master’s degree and five years of experience will receive a salary of $42,616, which includes $2,070 in supplemental pay.
Supplemental funds come from the sales tax approved in 2000 and Proposition 202 (the instructional improvement fund from the sale of public land).
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