HAYWARD | The Hayward School Board struck down a $375,000 expenditure to Hayward’s adult school program last board meeting to help stave off deficit spending despite staff’s recommendation to approve the fund part of the second interim budget report to help keep the adult education program afloat until school year’s end.

The second interim report included the $375,000 to help the adult education program for the rest of the year despite it already depleting reserves made available to it for the past three years. Most districts in the state have cut their adult education programs when the state made cuts to education. Hayward opted to maintain their adult education program despite the heavier financial burden. Now the adult education program is expected to be able to sustain itself, as planned, and if not may face being cut.

The district once appeared to have been on the road to a state takeover because of its cumbering financial woes but by including early teacher retirement incentives and cutting back on recycling costs last spring the district was able to present a balanced budget. The second interim budget report presented by staff said the district is once again positively certified and will be able to pay its bills this year, a conclusion that’s compliant with a similar analysis last December. But according to board member Luis Reynoso, who was not present for the budget report but spoke to The Citizen later, the district is currently deficit spending $6.5 million.

But despite the large deficit figure the district will end the financial year with a $12.2 million fund balance. Although this is down from $13.1 million projected at last year’s first interim budget report. The reduction is due to Tier III flexed state revenue to the Adult Education program and Special Education.

The principal of Hayward’s adult school, Ryan Whetstone, who recently stepped into his administrative role, expected to have the funds available to meet financial obligations for staff for the rest of the year. But school board President, William McGee and Vice President, Annette Walker, wanted to see more aggressive action to reign in the program’s spending and McGee criticized the principal for not meeting the program’s required obligations to self sustain by 2013. Whetstone reminded the board that he inherited the program’s financial woes when he was hired this past year and was beginning to look at potential cuts now, but this argument did not appease McGee.

“You say ‘I’m about the cut,’ when the response should have been ‘I am cutting and I need assistance in this.’ The board has been asking about this for awhile,” said McGee, “You may have inherited this but it is your job to manage it correctly.” McGee noted the previous board, that was under Jesus Armas’s leadership, for overspending. “We had to cut elementary music to save money but we kept adult education. I have people calling me telling me we don’t need adult education, but we kept it,” said McGee.

McGee’s tough stance on spending marks a continued trend that is stark departure from the previous board. The former board was racked by controversy because of Armas’s affair with former board member, Maribel Heredia but Armas was also criticized by fellow board members McGee and Reynoso for what Reynoso has called called, “rubber stamping,” excessive spending.

McGee said the board, nor staff, needed to take the blame on the adult education program’s lack of cuts whose budget is the principal’s responsibility. Walker agreed with McGee and questioned staff on the budget interim report’s inclusion of funding the adult program. “I’m hearing doom and gloom outside of positive certification. It’s very disconcerting at this point because we are way off from the first intro report as far as the numbers lining up. I’m almost in tears that that we are now accepting the fact that we are cutting back books and supplies because we are deficit spending on Tier III funding,” said Walker.

McGee added that he was not going to “rubber stamp,” this expenditure and rejecting it shows that they were not continuing “business as usual.” “We shouldn’t be making these decisions, it should be made at the school site,” said McGee.

Board members John Taylor and Lisa Brunner questioned staff and the principal some but without the same rigorous questioning that Walker and McGee gave and less frustration over the deficit. Both Taylor and Brunner wanted to pass staff’s recommendation to accept the report as is but McGee opted to pass it only if the $375,000 allocated to the adult program was taken out. It was and the board passed the budget with four yes’s. Reynoso had left previously and did not vote on the subject. The principal of the adult education program will return this Wednesday to discuss further on how the program will stay solvent.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.