By Steven Tavares
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Hayward is slated to balance a budget gap of $20.6
million, but not before reinstating $68,000 for arts,
including the Hayward Municipal Band, pictured above.

 HAYWARD – The band will play on. News of funding for arts and the Hayward Municipal Band struck a chord with a large outpouring of support this week at the Hayward City Council to reinstate $68,000 for the old-time outdoor orchestra to begin Sunday performances throughout the summer at Memorial Park.

A few amendments and tinkering to Hayward’s fiscal budget for 2012 were also made in advance of expected council approval June 21.

“The band has been practicing without knowing if there would be a season,” Hayward Councilman Olden Henson said Tuesday of the brass band founded in 1957 by two Portuguese maintenance workers.

Dozen of supporters for the arts and the nearby Sun Gallery held pale orange placards throughout the lengthy session that including an hour of testimony from residents over cuts to the arts in response to a $20.6 million funding shortfall.

Councilman Bill Quirk noted the small amount–roughly one-half of one percent of the general fund was hardly a budget-busting sum. “I think the arts are worth it,” he said.

But, with budget uncertainty in the state capitol surrounding local redevelopment funds, funding for the art and an additional $50,000 slated Tuesday night for the informational system known as 211, comes at a risk to the general fund.

“There’s a bit of a gamble here,” said Mayor Michael Sweeney. “If the state sweeps the fund, we should be honest to the people here and tell them substantial cuts will occur next year.” Sweeney recused himself from the discussion since he is employed by a non-profit involved in the deliberations.

The importance of the arts and continuing the city’s downtown community outreach programs was also supported by Councilman Mark Salinas. “I understand the state’s role and our relationship to them, but as a city we need to fund it,” he said of the funding for institutions and programs like the Sun Gallery. Both additions to the fiscal budget account for no net increase in funding from the previous year, city staff said.

Hayward’s ballooning $20.6 million deficit was tamed in a similar fashion to other nearby cash-strapped municipalities. Three-fourths of the gap will be shored up by $8.7 million in staff concessions, $5.3 million in staff reduction and another million in savings from staff vacancies. The rest of the shortfall will be filled by the use of $3.7 million in reserves.

Sweeney and city staff hope to put the finishing touches on the budget by next week for approval by the council at their next meeting June 21. In any case, by law, a balanced fiscal budget must be approved by the end of the month.