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Debt-ridden school bus agency could face shutdown

By   /   February 28, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

Three state senators want to shut down a Dallas County school bus service, charging the debt-ridden agency with endangering students and abusing taxpayers.

Department of Energy photo

OUT OF GAS: The bus contractor for schools in Dallas County would be shut down by a bill introduced this week in the Texas Legislature.

Republican Sens. Don Huffines of Dallas, Bob Hall of Edgewood and Van Taylor of Plano filed Senate Bill 1122 Tuesday to abolish the Dallas County Schools agency.

DCS neither hires teachers nor educates students, but provides transportation services to a dozen districts in Dallas County: Aledo, Carrollton/Farmers Branch, Cedar Hill, Coppell, DeSoto, Dallas, Highland Park, Irving, Lancaster, Richardson, Weatherford and White Settlement independent school districts.

According to KXAS News, DCS bus drivers have run hundreds of red lights over the past few years, and paid the tickets with taxpayer dollars. Some 480 traffic citations have been issued to DCS drivers since Jan. 1, 2014.

“This rogue bureaucracy is dangerous for students and a ripoff for taxpayers,” Huffines said.

Each year, Dallas schools sign over their state-funded transportation grants to DCS. In all, DCS receives annual revenue of $180.7 million from government and private sources.

Now, facing a $42 million budget deficit, DCS says it could miss a payment on its $73.5 million of taxpayer-supported bond debt, raising questions about the agency’s imminent collapse.

Huffines said his legislation would begin “an orderly and thoughtful wind-down” of DCS.

The bill would create a dissolution committee to take over DCS, with the authority to liquidate the bus agency’s assets and pay down the debt. A one-cent property tax – listed on local tax bills as “Dallas Equalization Fund” – would remain in place until all debt is erased.

Huffines spokesman Brent Connett said the bill provides a “soft landing” for the independent school districts to transition to new bus service.

The affected Dallas County ISDs have not commented on the legislation. DCS’s general counsel did not respond to Watchdog’s request for an interview.

Harris County’s school transportation agency – the other such countywide entity in Texas – is not affected by the bill.

Kenric Ward reports for Texas Watchdog. Contact him at [email protected] and @Kenricward.

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Kenric Ward was a former San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org.