FUNGIBLE

By: Curtis Roe, Director of Finance, Purcell Murray Company, croe@purcellmurray.com

Fungible. Isn’t that fun to say? According to Merriam-Webster, it means being something (such as money or a commodity) of such a nature that one part or quantity may be replaced by another equal part or quantity in paying a debt or settling an account.
Did you know that 4 elementary schools in Redwood City recently closed? The cost was too high and it was no longer affordable. Surprisingly, some charter schools were recently opened, but that is another matter. When considering the cost of school administration, funding pensions, and running the schools, closure was determined to be the best option. Unfortunately, that does not fully solve the problem. There continues to be a revenue shortfall and more work needs to be done. Measure H has been introduced to help fund the issue through an additional property tax. The monies are said to be restricted for the purposes of supporting the schools. This revenue will not be used for administration or other matters like the pensions. Who could possibly argue against that? We all know we need to invest in education and our children are the future. You do care about the future, right? It is painful to see our schools struggle so much. My schooling experience was nothing like it is today.
The response to measure H calls out the possibility that if the measure is passed, the funding for the schools that comes from the general fund, could then be cut. Cutting those expenses from the general expenditures would then make more money available for other things like say, administration or funding the pensions. In other words, it’s fungible. This assertion is just a possibility, not a mandate. But what would you do if you allocated a percentage of your paycheck for school, some for rent, some for food and suddenly someone started paying for the school? I might buy better food or a nicer place to live. I probably wouldn’t keep sending it to the school.
It is a tough situation. It is unfortunate that this is the best we can come up with as a solution. If passed, it probably won’t be a long term solution either. And there is a chance the monies will indirectly go to support other things. So it is hard to vote no on the issue. I do wish we could have more confidence in our decision.