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Members of the Georgia State Legislature smile as Gov. Brian Kemp gives his inaugural address in the McCamish Pavilion on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia. Kemp’s first duties as governor after his inauguration included swearing in other elected officials into office. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

State lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a record-high $27.5 billion budget for Georgia’s 2020 fiscal year with bipartisan support in late March. The budget has now been sent to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk.

As a result of the budget, Athens-Clarke County will soon see salary increases for teachers, an increase in funding for Medicaid and continued funding of higher education.

Education

Certified teachers and public school personnel will receive a $3,000 salary increase starting July 1. This teacher pay raise, one of the largest in state history, will cost Georgia $530 million in FY 2020.

In the Clarke County School District, there are 2,289 employees and 1,148 teachers, including Clarke Central High School English teacher Ian Altman, who said the pay increase would be a “step in the right direction.”

“It will make it a little bit easier to pay off debts,” Altman said. “It will add more of a monthly cushion, make it easier to keep up with savings.”

The budget will also increase the salaries of certified pre-kindergarten teachers by $3,000 and assistant teachers by 2% through $16.5 million in lottery funds.

Healthcare

Georgia’s FY 2020 budget will also include increases in funding to Medicaid, a combined federal and state program which provides healthcare to low-income individuals. $35 million will be provided by the state to Georgia’s Low-Income Medicaid program, which will also receive $72 million in federal funds.

In regards to Georgia’s Aged, Blind, and Disabled Medicaid program, the state and federal government will combine to fund $64 million combined based on projected need.

These changes will increase funding for Athens-Clarke County’s 18,341 individuals enrolled in Medicaid as of 2013.

Higher education

Starting this July, the new budget will provide $376 million in bonds to the University System of Georgia, which the University of Georgia is a part of, and to the Technical College System of Georgia.

To account for enrollment growth, facilities costs and Teachers Retirement System, the budget will fund $88 million for the University System of Georgia and $3.5 million for the Technical College System of Georgia.

University System of Georgia enrollment has steadily increased from 301,974 in spring 2012 and totals to 310,940 students in spring 2019. Since 2012, UGA’s enrollment has increased from 34,519 total students to 38,652 in 2018.

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