By Steven Tavares
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HAYWARD – In the end 13 turned out to be not so unlucky a number for Hayward’s 2012 fiscal budget unanimously approved Tuesday night. With the self-proclaimed “Heart of the Bay” in need of a coronary bypass in the face of a $20 million deficit looming, the City Council was able to approve the budget the backs of employee unions, some of which agreed to givebacks of 13 percent or more.

“All bargaining groups made concessions–some more than others–and it’s greatly appreciated,” said Councilman Bill Quirk.

In total, nine labor along with non-union managers, the mayor and city council and members of the city attorney’s office agreed to cost-saving concessions. Hayward City Manager Fran David thanked the union groups and city council for their cooperation while noting the gloomy economy caused a certain amount of apprehension among employees.

“Some were scared, some confused, but most have stepped up,” David said. The Hayward Fire Department Local 1909 was lauded by David for agreeing to a 15 percent reduction over the next two years. David warned others unions, some of which agreed to the minimum five percent reduction run the risk of facing larger concession next year with the possibility of yet another poor economic outlook in 2012.

Despite taming this year’s $20.6 million shortfall, the city expects deficits running between $20-$30 million over the next decade without structurally change to the budget. David says employee costs encompass 89 percent of the general fund.

An across the board 13 percent cut in salary and benefits of was estimated to reap $12.3 million in savings towards next fiscal year’s deficit. With the varying percentages of givebacks by labor unions, David expects $8.6 million in concessions. In addition, the city will begin $2.1 million in structural savings with an increase in employees contributing 8 percent towards towards the cost of their pensions.

Earlier this year, David announced she would begin paying 8 percent towards her CalPERS benefits. Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney and the full council also agreed to the same deal while contributing 20 percent towards the cost of medical insurance and half of dental costs. The mayor and council will also take a very slight salary reduction–a mere tenth of one percent.

As Hayward continues to sort out a bleak economic outlook not so unsurprising next to its East Bay neighbors, some of whom have already made the same sort of deep cuts to staff while gaining labor concessions, there still resides a glimmer of hope in near the future, but not too much to overwhelm the senses. “We’ll hope for better days,” said Sweeney after approval of the budget.