The Dallas Independent School District is preparing to hire more than 1,100 Dallas County Schools employees after voters decided this month to close DCS at the end of the current school year.
The Nov. 7 referendum came after a year of NBC 5 Investigates reports about safety and financial problems at the school bus agency.
Dallas ISD, with 384 square miles and 156,000 students, is the largest DCS customer.
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"Members of this board and this district actively played a role in closing Dallas County Schools. It is not the employees' fault," said Dallas ISD Trustee Joyce Foreman.
Dallas ISD staff members said they want to move quickly to reassure those DCS employees that they are still needed.
"We want to get the message out that we want those employees that work at those service centers that continue to provide transportation for our kids," said Dallas ISD Deputy Superintendent Scott Layne. "We will give first priority to those people that currently have jobs."
Layne said DCS employees would receive the same pay and many of the same benefits. Hiring could begin very soon to have the new Dallas ISD bus service ready before the start of summer school. About 850 drivers are included in the 1,135 transportation employees that Layne said Dallas ISD will need.
The state law that provided the option of closing DCS keeps it running until the end of August. But there are still many unknowns about the shutdown.
"Adding 1,100 people to our payroll, they might need some help in the payroll office," said Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.
Dallas ISD expects to receive 925 DCS buses and use of the four DCS services centers where those buses are based now.
But Dallas ISD is setting aside an extra $2.5 million in case it must lease those centers at the same high rate DCS has been paying after selling the properties to a vendor to raise cash.
"A rate that is many, many times above the market rate," said Dallas ISD Trustee Dustin Marshall. "Or we could break that lease."
Marshall was one of the Dallas ISD officials supporting the DCS shutdown.
Hinojosa said the school district could acquire three of the centers that are inside Dallas ISD borders through the use of public domain if that is the most favorable option for taxpayers.
The briefing presented Thursday said Dallas ISD can run the bus service cheaper than DCS did, even without the property tax money that DCS was receiving. DCS will still collect that property tax to pay off debts even after it stops providing bus service.
Dallas ISD forecasts total transportation expenses of $59,953,651, but that would be offset by $11,836,345 in state money for a net cost of $47,117,306 in the 2018-2019 school year, well within the $53 million Layne said Dallas ISD has set aside for transportation.
"We will have better control, more accountability. They will be our employees when parents call," Layne said.
A comparison with other large Texas school districts shows Dallas was the only one not providing bus service for itself.
And the DCS cost per student of $1,650 was the highest compared with those other districts.
Fort Worth ISD pays $1,097. Houston ISD pays $1,598. The Cy-Fair District in suburban Houston pays just $459 per student.
Layne said Dallas is studying the Cy-Fair transportation model.
Dallas offered to help suburban school districts that were also customers of DCS, but Layne said no requests have been received.