No kids? No problem!
The Department of Education is bailing out a school bus company owned by a major donor in one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s biggest campaign finance scandals, agreeing to take over the firm for an undisclosed price.
Under the deal announced by City Hall on Tuesday, the DOE will take ownership of Reliant Transportation’s fleet of 1,000 school buses, other vehicles and related functions.
“This move raises all sorts of questions, including, how can the city afford it in the face of huge budget shortfalls?” said Leonie Haimson, a longtime parent advocate who heads the nonprofit Class Size Matters. “Why are they adding more city employees while threatening to lay off thousands of others?”
“And,” she added, “why move to acquire this company now, when we have no idea how long school buildings will remain open and whether any busing will actually be needed?”
Reliant’s current employees will all be offered new positions after the takeover at the city-established nonprofit formed to operate Reliant’s former business.
The nonprofit — New York City School Bus Umbrella Services, Inc. — will also be responsible for Reliant’s pension obligations, which a source in August pegged at $150 million.
Officials described the deal as “tentative” and refused to provide additional details as they spun the purchase as “a long-term investment in school bus transportation that will provide greater stability, flexibility, and oversight in school bus service in the years ahead.”
“We are doing everything we can to guarantee safe, fast, and reliable bus service for the students who need it most,” de Blasio claimed in a statement. “This agreement delivers on that promise and makes a lasting investment in our school communities for years to come.”
Reliant’s parent company is partially owned by Alex Lodde, a key donor to de Blasio’s failed 2014 effort to bankroll a Democratic majority in the state Senate, who was its longtime chief executive and remains on the firm’s board of directors.
Lodde gave $100,000 to an upstate Democratic county party in de Blasio’s effort to skirt campaign finance laws, which resulted in a probe and scalding report from state regulators.
The DOE’s purchase comes less than four months after City Hall hired a consulting firm to study a possible DOE takeover of its privately run school bus system. The contract, potentially worth $800,000, was let through the city’s secretive Economic Development Corporation.
Officials were not able to immediately say if the consultants had wrapped up their work yet.
The school bus buyout comes just after The Post revealed that the DOE recently inked new deals with bus companies that would pay them $106 million for the two months they stood idle during the springtime after the coronavirus pandemic outbreak forced officials to shut down in-person learning.
Reliant’s parent company, MV Transportation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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