The election to determine the fate of Dallas County Schools will cost taxpayers almost $1 million.
DCS recently received an invoice from the Dallas County Elections Department showing the financially strapped school bus agency's share of the ballot expenses will total about $997,000. The county elections office splits administrative costs of elections between agencies that have races or referendums on the ballot. The money pays for operating the polls and counting ballots among other costs.
At a meeting Tuesday one DCS board member complained it's money the agency doesn't have for an election it didn't ask for in the first place.
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"So the state is telling us we have to have this election, but they didn't give us money to pay for it. So we have to take it out of the money we would normally use to reduce transportation costs," said DCS board member Kyle Renard.
The Texas Legislature mandated the Nov. 7 public vote after concerns about safety and financial mismanagement at DCS, the government agency that runs the school buses for nine North Texas school districts, including the Dallas Independent School District.
DCS is currently facing a budget shortfall of about $9 million in the current fiscal year after millions in losses in previous years on a school bus camera business venture that fell far short of financial expectations.
State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, who headed up efforts to close DCS, said Tuesday the costs of the election are well worth it, given the past performance of DCS.
"These elections costs are a down payment on a brighter, safer and more reliable future for student transportation in Dallas County," Huffines said. "They've driven their organization to be brink of bankruptcy through frivolous and fraudulent investments, so it's ironic they complain about giving voters a voice on shutting them down."
Huffines originally proposed closing DCS without an election, but the election became part of a political compromise necessary for him to win bipartisan support for his bill.
If Dallas County voters elect to close DCS, a dissolution committee would be formed to take over operations of the bus agency. The committee would divide the assets of DCS among the local school districts that currently use DCS for busing. It would then be up to each district to operate its own transportation program in-house or to hire its own transportation contractors.