Dallas County Spurns City's Request for Cash for School Crossing Guards

Dallas looks like it's going to be footing the school crossing guard bill on its own for at least the next two years.
Dallas looks like it's going to be footing the school crossing guard bill on its own for at least the next two years.
Dallas County Commissioners Court refused a request for cash from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings on Tuesday, turning down the mayor's plea for $1.2 million to help the city make up the costs of the school crossing guard program that fell into Dallas' lap after voters decided to disband Dallas County Schools earlier this year. Instead, the issue of county funding will go on the November ballots. 

Rawlings asked the court to begin charging Dallas County drivers a $1.50 charge each time they register their vehicle, which the state allows but does not mandate. That money, Rawlings said, could begin helping the city with the $4 million shortfall it ran into after taking responsibility for helping Dallas ISD's children get across the street.

The city is required by Texas law to provide crossing guard services for school kids within its. It had contracted out the crossing guard program to Dallas County Schools — the agency that provided Dallas ISD's bus service — in exchange for allowing the bus provider to collect money for tickets issued to drivers who passed stopped school buses if evidence came from bus stop-arm cameras.

"The safety of our schoolchildren should be our highest priority," Rawlings said. "I come before you humbly today and ask for your help as we prepare to take this on. This is something you can do and we can't do."

The commissioners, led by Mike Cantrell, pushed back, asking the mayor why Dallas couldn't find $4 million in a budget of more than $3 billion. It should be up to Dallas County voters, he said, to decide what to do with their money.

"With the right campaign, the right process, it gives people an opportunity to at least vote on it," Cantrell said. "They get to determine what happens with their $1.50."

Rawlings told Cantrell that he believed the ballot measure would pass but hoped the court would sign off on the program so that the city could begin receiving the money from it sooner. If voters agree to the fee, the earliest it could take effect is Jan. 1, 2020.

After the 3-2 vote — Commissioners John Wiley Price and Elba Garcia voted to start the program now — Rawlings vented his frustration with the county on social media.

"[The city of Dallas] will protect our children as they cross the street to school every day. I was hoping we would have had partners at Dallas County willing to help us," Rawlings tweeted.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young