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The city’s Panel for Education Policy has waved through a controversial $890 million contract for school bus services to be run by a city-owned nonprofit that bailed out a politically-connected operator earlier this year.
City Hall formed NYC School Bus Umbrella Services, Inc. to take over Reliant Transportation and the 900 routes it oversees for kids with special needs.
The arrangement benefits Reliant co-owner Alex Lodde, who gave $100,000 to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2014 effort to push for a Democratic majority in the state Senate.
The five-year contract passed Monday night with eight members of the panel voted in favor and five abstaining — an unusually high number for the PEP.
Critics of the deal have highlighted the city’s potential exposure to Reliant’s pension obligations totaling about $142 million.
The Post reported Sunday that drivers will refuse to work for the nonprofit unless it guarantees payment of those liabilities in full.
“Either the nonprofit is on the hook, or we’ll go after Reliant — and we won’t wait five years,” Michael Cordiello, president of ATU Local 1181, which represents Reliant’s 2,000 bus drivers and attendants, told The Post Sunday.
The Department of Education has argued that the takeover will improve services for disabled kids who comprise 10 percent of all student bus riders.
The city will continue to contract with private companies to serve the remaining 90 percent of kids that rely on school buses.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza defended the arrangement Monday, contending that it gave the DOE more control over busing services.
“If I have to negotiate with third party vendors around our transportation it makes it difficult not for us but for our children and our families to be able to be transported,” he said.
Several members of city parent advisory councils questioned the deal’s price tag and questionable provenance at the meeting — especially amid severe coronavirus budget cuts to school programs.
Lucas Liu, of Community Education Council 3, noted that de Blasio and Carranza will no longer hold their current positions when the final bill lands on the city’s table.
In addition, the nonprofit will protect Reliant’s ownership from any liabilities stemming from a withdrawal from the pension plan, sources said.
A Department of Education contracts officer said Monday he doubted the city would end up on the hook for those costs.
But when pressed, Nicolas Storelli-Castro said there were protections in the contract that would allow the city to pay those sums over extended periods if need be.
Additional reporting by Susan Edelman
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