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Flagging revenues cloud chance for Georgia teacher raises

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp has promised Georgia public school teachers another $2,000 in pay raises, after the legislature provided funding for $3,000 last year.

But even the strongest advocates of raises say they may not happen this year, in part because of flagging tax revenues that led the Republican to order budget cuts.

“It may not come this year,” said Charlotte Booker, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, an affiliate of the National Education Association. "It may come next year. But I'm hopeful he will live up to his word and give at least $1,000 or more this year.”

Kemp has said he stands by his promise, but won't say whether he'll push for any money this year. The remaining $2,000 could cost $325 million. Observers say that it's possible that lawmakers could still give the $1,000 Booker referenced, in part because they are up for re-election.

So far, core K-12 and college spending has been shielded from cuts that Kemp has ordered, but that could change if revenues fall more or lawmakers further reduce Georgia's top state income tax rate. They already lowered it from 6% to 5.75%, and the rate could be reduced to 5.5% this year.

Cuts could mean a return of teacher layoffs and unpaid furloughs that lingered for years after the great recession. They could also cause tuition increases at public universities and colleges.

“We would like additional pay raises every year, but we also think it's important that legislators enact financial policies that protect the long-term viability of our schools,” said Margaret Ciccarrelli of Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state's largest teachers' group.

The budget situation could also jeopardize proposals for more funding for school buses and counselors.