As expected, the Dallas school district is moving forward on taking over its own bus operations.
The Dallas Morning News reports that the school system plans to pick up the pieces — including 925 buses and over 1,100 employees — from the soon-to-be-shuttered Dallas County Schools bus agency.
Running its own in-house busing operations was the district's most viable option, says Scott Layne, the Dallas district's deputy superintendent for operations.
Voters decided in November to shut down Dallas County Schools after numerous failings, including financial mismanagement, unpaid traffic violations and a questionable business deal involving stop-arm cameras.
Early estimates are that the Dallas district can run the operation for about $54 million, 5.25 percent more than what Dallas County Schools is expected to charge for this year’s service.
According to a district analysis, Dallas is the only one among the state’s six largest school districts to use a vendor for busing, and cost-per-rider rate in Dallas was the highest among the six districts.
The size of the district, spanning 384 square miles and parts of 16 different cities, makes it too difficult to find a transportation contractor for 2018-19, Layne says. Any outside vendor could take years to get online, needing time to assemble a fleet of buses and hire staff.
To accelerate the process, the district has posted an opening for an executive director for transportation, and has commissioned a task force to address issues related to the dissolution of Dallas County Schools. Layne expects the district will hire many of bus agency’s existing staff, including bus drivers, dispatchers, mechanics and monitors.
At this point, it’s unclear how many of the 925 buses allocated to the Dallas district are leased by the bus agency, and it is uncertain whether those leases would be considered as part of the debt that would be absorbed in the dissolution of the contractor. A penny tax rate levied on property in the county will stay in effect until all of the bus contractors’ debt is paid off.
Also unclear is the status of the four Dallas County Schools service centers.
“It’s not going to be easy, and I’m not going to sit here and say it’s going to be a lot better at this point,” Layne says. “We are going to have some bumps along the way. But we are going to do everything we possibly can to provide safe and efficient transportation to all our kids.”