Maricopa Unified School District teachers will receive raises starting from 5% and all other school district employees will get pay hikes on July 1 after a series of unanimous approvals by the Governing Board on Wednesday.

Teacher base pay increases to $52,500 from $50,000, a 5% increase. Depending on experience, returning teachers will receive an increase starting at 7%.

Jacob Harmon, the district’s chief financial officer, also recommended a 7% increase for all returning certified, administrative and classified staff as well as a 12% increase for registered nurses. The board approved them all.

“To determine our budget capacity for raises and positions, we compare our general budget limit to our current spending level,” Harmon said. “That capacity is a combination of new capacity from growth and unused capacity from prior years.

“This is a celebration,” he had said during a work-study initial proposal on Jan. 25. “It’s a marker that shows our continued improvement in teacher retention as we continue to outpace the state average.”

For new hires, the starting base salary for Level 1 classified moves to $14.87 from $14.17, surpassing minimum-wage adjustments.

In all, the district adjusted more than 30 classified group-placement schedules, ranging from 70 cents to $3, in essence creating a sliding scale, including an additional hourly amount beyond the 7% raise.

“This will keep us competitive and in a position ourselves in a way to better recruit and retain quality staff for MUSD,” Harmon said.

Board member Patti Coutré, however, said she had hoped more for equity than equality in the raises.

“It is wonderful, and I would never ever vote against a pay raise for our staff, because they are all deserving of it. We’re lucky that we can be so generous,” Coutré said. “But I would like to see it more on an equitable basis, not on an equal basis.”

As a former classified employee, Coutré advocates for a fair, tiered approach to account for inflation and to show appreciation for nonteaching personnel.

“Someone making six figures is going to get the same amount of percentage as someone making under $20, and that’s less than a dollar an hour raise,” Coutré said. “And that dollar an hour is probably going to be eaten up with the cost of inflation, groceries, insurance increases and not able to move the needle forward.”

MUSD’s strategic plan focuses on access to equitable education, resources and programs for every student. When it comes to salaries, though, it’s different.

Coutré reinforces the importance of equitable education and believes staff pay should be treated the same way.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Coutré said in the Jan. 25 meeting. “But I would like us to work toward that because I think our employees and our community and our students deserve that.”

Following the Jan. 25 meeting, Harmon revisited the hourly pay for classified employees. An updated proposal suggested a 2% yearly raise for up to 10 years of verified experience and a 1% base hourly rate increase for an AA degree.

In the meantime, Coutré and board member Torri Anderson remain grateful for the raises.

“I’m excited to be in a position to offer raises, period,” Anderson said. “We had some lean years there. So, it’s nice to know that we are on the path to being the leader in education in the state for pay.”