DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Bennie Washington is among the dozens of Dallas County Schools drivers who have questions about their futures. “A lot of us want to know what’s going on.”
They attended the first meeting of the committee who will oversee dissolving the bus agency.
Right after the new board voted Alan King as CEO, he delivered the bad news. “Our current financial situation is pretty bleak.”
King says during the past five years, the agency’s debt has skyrocketed from $36 million to $147 million.
One main reason, a program in which the district installed multiple-cameras on each bus to help catch and then fine drivers who sped past the buses when they’re loading and unloading students.
King says the program was a costly flop. “The stop-arm program put us in this mess. You can see right off the bat, they transferred $40 million from the general fund to the stop-arm program. They went out and sold the assets we had because we had a cash flow problem. They went out and borrowed some more money so they could buy the rights to market the stop-arm program.”
He says he believes the district won’t run out of money, but admits, there are still uncertainties. “We’re going to find a way to make it to the end of the year period. I don’t know how, but we will make it.”
Prior administrators are accused of mismanagement and questionable deals.
But the new leaders are not focusing on that.
Mike Moses, Board Chair of the DCS Dissolution Committee says, “Our job is to look forward and try to figure out how to make this work as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Moses and King are familiar with running large districts.
Moses is a former Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency and former Superintendent of Dallas ISD, DCS’ largest customer.
King is the former CFO at Dallas ISD and is a former interim CFO at DCS from late 2015 through January, 2016. “I was really just trying to fix the issues, so I just left because we had different beliefs and different philosophies.”
Moses says it’s fair to describe King as “Mr. Fix-It.” “Alan has been asked to take on challenging assignments. He’s performed well, so yeah, I think that might be a good title.”
Agency leaders assured drivers they will have jobs through the end of the school year, and hope they will get jobs with school districts that will have to transport students next fall.
After driving for 24 years, Bennie Washington is still worried. “If they drop the pay down that low, they’re not going to have any workers. That’s just as simple as that. You’re not got to drop down from $20-$30 dollars an hour. Nobody is going to work for $12 dollars an hour.”
She may find out more November 30.
That’s when Dallas ISD administrators will present their transportation plan for next fall to their school board.