HAYWARD -- Arts and cultural programs that survive with help from city funds -- including such beloved mainstays as the Sun Gallery, Hayward Municipal Band and Russell City Blues Festival -- could be casualties of the governor's bid to eliminate redevelopment agencies.
The 12 groups in Hayward's Community Promotions Program each receive money from the city's redevelopment agency, and if the state's plan to do away with such agencies goes through, it means available funds will be cut by more than 63 percent.
For groups that get all their funding from the city -- such as the municipal band -- an equal across-the-board cut would clearly be devastating.
But that kind of hit also could prove lethal to groups that recoup costs via fundraising and other methods throughout the year.
"The Sun Gallery has a broad income base," said Robert Carlsen, who sits on the board of both the gallery and the Hayward Arts Council. "They have classes people pay to take. The HAC is a little less diversified and counts pretty heavily on city money. But neither one has much in reserve, and both are already operating close to the waterline. This cut, being so deep, would put them both under."
Ronnie Stewart, of the Bay Area Blues Society, said that while they raise most of the money needed for the popular annual two-day Russell City Blues Festival on their own, the city's contribution is critical to get them up and running.
"We start planning for the next year the day after the festival ends," he said. "Through the year, we'll raise another 40, 50 or 60 percent, but the problem is seed money. Airfares, deposits on all the suppliers, like sound and fencing companies. And money to tie the artists down for the next summer."
He said while the festival is a go this year, future events are "up in the air" without the redevelopment funds.
Councilwoman Barbara Halliday, who sits on the Council Economic Development Committee that is charged with recommending how the limited funds are spent, said "This is just one problem, not even one of bigger problems," related to redevelopment dollars that are "in limbo."
The city gets about $3.9 million in tax increment money each year through the redevelopment agency. In addition to going toward major projects such as development around South Hayward BART and Mission Boulevard improvements, some is used for programs that add to the revitalization of an area.
The Downtown Business Improvement Area, for example, will lose $55,000 -- half its budget -- without redevelopment funds. And last year, $75,000 of the $118,000 the city spent to promote arts and cultural programs was from redevelopment.
Counting out those dollars, Hayward currently has budgeted $43,000 for the programs, and the city is in no shape to find additional funds elsewhere.
"Right now, we're facing a deficit somewhere between $12 and $17 million depending on the level of employee concessions we achieve for the next fiscal year," said assistant city manager Kelly Morariu.
The economic development committee discussed arts and cultural program cuts at its April 4 meeting, and will take the matter up again on May 2 before making a recommendation to the City Council.
Halliday said ideas that may be brought to the table include combining some programs, or prioritizing funding.
"They're all good things," Halliday said of the programs. "With that said, one of the benefits of the recession is that it has forced (the city) to really look at everything in a really critical manner. And we've succeeded in many ways. We think that maybe the groups getting money through this need to also look at partnering and being more efficient."
Carlsen, of the Sun Gallery and Hayward Arts Council, said his two groups have been in talks regarding a merger and have been making "baby steps" in that direction. But he added that even if combined, survival wouldn't be guaranteed.
He said it's time for city leaders to make some tough choices regarding where the money goes.
"Rather than cut everybody the same and endanger all, maybe it's time to rebuild the idea of how to fund, prioritize it based on value to the community," he said. "I think there has to be more than a blind-eyed slash.
"An equal-percentage cut for everyone is easy because no one feels like they're getting picked on, but we don't put them in office to make easy decisions."