Car Allowances for Employees Probed in Dallas

By Catherine Gewertz — November 29, 2005 1 min read

The Dallas school board is asking why the district is paying $3.7 million in car allowances this school year to 2,300 employees, many of whom rarely or never use their cars for business.

The Dallas Morning News revealed the extent of the allowances in articles this month. It said that at the district’s reimbursement rate of 35 cents per mile, the money would be enough to cover 22 round trips to the moon.

In response to the newspaper’s series, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa called for a full review of the district’s compensation policies. The school board of the 160,000-student district will also look into the matter.

Board President Lois Parrott said in an interview that she was “disappointed and disheartened” to find that the administration had not followed the recommendations of the state comptroller, who suggested in 2001 that the district cut back on how many employees receive the allowances.

The money arrives monthly in the paychecks of employees with certain job titles, without their having to submit claims for mileage, The Dallas Morning News said. But many don’t use their cars for business, and dozens have access to district cars.

One employee, for instance, gets a $1,730 annual car allowance as the administrator of the district’s desktop-services division. In October, he told the newspaper, he used his car for business only once.

Five employees on the district’s “help desk,” who answer phones and solve computer problems, receive $1,185 each.

The allowances have the teachers’ union hopping mad, since the school board agreed to give its 11,000 teachers only a $650 raise this year, citing a $28 million deficit in the district’s $1 billion annual budget and insufficient state funding.

“When you find out your district appears to be somewhat cavalier when it comes to how it’s spending its money, it makes the optimist in me become very cynical,” said Aimee Bolender, the president of the Alliance/AFT, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.