DCS Considers Trimming Driver, Staff Incentives to Help Balance Budget

Current agency budget shows a $9.6 million revenue shortage

The financial woes continue to pile up at Dallas County Schools – the taxpayer-funded transportation agency at the center of NBC 5's ongoing investigation, "Big Buses, Bigger Problems."

Already millions of dollars in debt, DCS announced Tuesday it is also facing a nearly $10 million revenue shortage for next year.

Staff members put forward a series of proposals at a budget committee hearing that would suspend or eliminate several employee incentive programs.

That would save DCS about $6 million, but bus drivers and staff would bear the brunt of these cuts.

Some of the items on the chopping block include extra pay, holiday pay and unused vacation pay for bus drivers.

The agency is also considering scaling back its charter bus program and discussing whether to increase its tax on Dallas County residents to one cent.

No final decisions were made at Tuesday's budget committee meeting.

Ken Stretcher, a local union representative, says with DCS already facing a driver shortage, these cuts could make things worse.

"It's almost a crisis situation. People are leaving. The ones who aren't or haven't quit are looking for other jobs. People are saying they're not coming back next year," he said.

While the agency works to balance its budget, one item not discussed Tuesday was the $10 million in debt payments DCS defaulted on last week. The agency tried to restructure that debt, but the Texas Attorney General's Office would not sign off on the plan.

NBC 5 Investigates asked new DCS Board President Gloria Levario what the district is going to do now.

"I'm not really sure what the long-term solution is, because like I said we've been doing everything that they've (the AG's Office) asked, and now all of a sudden what we're doing is not good enough," Levario said.

All the uncertainty currently facing DCS is compounded by the bill sitting on Gov. Greg Abbott's desk that would put the agency's future in the hands of Dallas County voters this fall. DCS says it is actively lobbying the governor to veto the measure.

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