Mesa school district employees’ base salaries will remain frozen for next school year, the district and employee associations have agreed.
Teachers may still receive a pay increase if they completed the necessary college credits to move up the salary schedule, district spokeswoman Kathy Bareiss said. The schedule itself will not change.
The Mesa Unified School District and the employee groups settled the agreement early last week. The governing board is scheduled to vote on it Tuesday following a 5:30 p.m. executive session. The board meets at the Curriculum Services Center, 549 N. Stapley Road.
“Given the cuts the district has taken in its budget, this is certainly not unexpected,” said Will Moore, Arizona Education Association consultant to the Mesa district’s employee group.
Employees received contracts in May that listed the salary freeze, but the contracts included language that the district could cut salaries -- or raise them -- depending on the outcome of the state budget. Tuesday's vote will make the contract agreement final.
The district has also agreed to completely fund the increase in health care for eligible employees, Bareiss said.
“We have taken cuts in the support areas, both support to teachers in the classroom and to schools in general,” she said. “So the teacher and the students in the classroom will not be affected.”
Earlier this month the district approved a $408.85 million budget for its 2009-2010 maintenance and operations fund, a decrease of $21.5 million from last year's budget. The maintenance and operations fund covers employee salaries and benefits.
“We’ve looked at changing the way we do things rather than making across-the-board cuts,” Bareiss said.
Arizona school districts had to cut their budgets in the middle of last school year as the state grappled with declining revenue.
That fear is still there, Moore said. Though Gov. Jan Brewer signed the education piece of the budget earlier this month – which is what the Mesa salary plan is based on – the state still faces a major shortfall in revenue for this budget year. And lawmakers are still trying to address that.
“What really worries me and a lot of other folks, including the district, is what will happen if the Legislature demands more budget cuts in the fiscal year as they did last year?” Moore said. “If this was the bottom line, I would breathe a lot easier. But the story is not over and that keeps me awake nights.”
Mesa Unified was able to hire back a majority of the teachers who received layoff or “reduction in force” notices back in April. Districts around the state put thousands of teachers on notice that they may not have employment for the 2009-2010 school year.
In the East Valley, most of those teachers did receive contracts from their districts.
Classes begin Aug. 12 in the Mesa district.