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School officials optimistic about state budget

Sonoma County educators are greeting Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan to infuse billions more dollars into education spending as a sea change after years of dramatic cuts to California public schools.

But those administrators are remaining cautious about what the state spending plan ultimately will look like after lawmakers weigh in on the deal.

"I think it's way too early to know what it means," said Doug Bower, associate superintendent of Santa Rosa City Schools, Sonoma County's largest school district.

"The only thing I know from this is we aren't going to be cutting anything," he said. "That has been our lifestyle."

Brown's $155 billion proposal calls for an 8 percent increase in general-fund spending, putting the largest chunk toward education.

Lawmakers are required to pass the state budget by June 15 so it can be signed into law and enacted by July 1. Missing the deadline means lawmakers do not get their salary or living expenses.

Brown administration officials are expecting a $4.2 billion surplus by the end of June -#8212; a far cry from the $26.6 billion budget deficit of less than three years ago.

"It will mean that districts ... will have some choices next year instead of eliminating," West County High School District Superintendent Keller McDonald said.

Yet McDonald expressed concern for a number of elements of the budget, including how districts will handle rising transportation costs.

The cost of busing students -#8212; a political football since 2012 when Brown proposed having districts pay for buses out of their general funds -#8212; is on the rise, McDonald said.

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