Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday signed legislation giving voters a say in the future of beleaguered school bus agency Dallas County Schools.
Abbott signed Senate Bill 1566 and Senate Bill 2065, which contain provisions that could put the future of the school bus agency in the hands of Dallas County voters this November. Voters will be able to decide whether to allow DCS to continue operations or not.
Leatha Mullins, interim superintendent of Dallas County Schools, warned Thursday what dismantling DCS could mean for North Texas.
"At the moment, I have no words. It makes no sense to dismantle an agency that has been serving the county and students for 170 years. This decision will have dire consequences for all of the school districts involved. We will discuss next steps with the DCS Board, possibly as soon as next Tuesday," Mullins said in a statement.
Texas Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas), who fought to close DCS, said in a prepared statement Thursday, "DCS is bad for students, schools, and taxpayers. I have long said it was not a matter of if DCS would be abolished, but when it would come to an end and how students and schools would be protected from its collapse."
Over the last nine months, NBC 5 Investigates has uncovered financial mismanagement at the agency, including millions spent on a risky business venture that put the agency millions in debt. What's more, the agency entered into a costly sale-leaseback for land once owned by taxpayers that will now cost the agency millions of dollars over the next two decades.
After DCS defaulted on $10 million of debt service payments June 1, credit reporting agency Moody's again downgraded the agency's credit rating, this time to very low junk bond status. Moody's said June 9 that "dissolution is now a high probability" for the troubled agency.
DCS is expected to receive approximately $2 million in state funding at the end of June and July, respectively, but Moody's believes that will not be enough money to cover operating expenses and monthly debt payments.
"With the signing of Senate Bill 1566, voters will have the opportunity to ensure a smooth and workable transition for students and schools to find safer, more reliable, and more cost effective bus service," Huffines said Thursday in a statement. "Now, as criminal investigations proceed, I am confident that voters will abolish this corrupt and dangerous government bus bureaucracy. It's outdated and redundant government run amok, and it's past time to close the door on this embarrassing chapter in our County's history."
NBC 5 Investigates' Scott Friedman and Eva Parks contributed to this report.