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School Police Near Austin, Texas, to Buy All-Tesla Fleet

School district officials have explained that the district followed the legal procurement process and solicited bids for patrol vehicles from more than 90 vendors and auto dealers.

(TNS) — A Travis County school district is planning to purchase a fleet of Teslas for its newly formed police force.

Eanes Independent School District voted to create a police department earlier this summer to better comply with state mandates. The district, which encompasses 32 square miles in greater Austin, explained in a memo that patrol vehicles are required for rapid deployment to its campuses in the case of an emergency.

In a Sept. 29 video posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Eanes ISD Superintendent Jeff Arnett explained that the district followed the legal procurement process and solicited bids for patrol vehicles from more than 90 vendors and auto dealers.

"There were only two qualifying offers that were submitted and in evaluating those, Tesla was determined to be the best value for Eanes ISD taxpayers and we can get those vehicles in 60 days," he said.

The vehicle offered in the second bid "did not meet evaluated criteria as a long-term option for the Eanes ISD Police Department" and "was not deemed a fiscally responsible value for the budget or for taxpayers."

District administrators will recommend awarding a contract to Austin-based Tesla Inc. for the purchase of nine police vehicles — one for each officer — at Tuesday's board meeting.

The district emphasized that the proposed automobile for police officers manufactured by Tesla is not a luxury vehicle, but is equipped with technology, performance and sustainability features to "comply with law enforcement specifications."

Arnett said the district wasn't initially looking to purchase electric vehicles but traditional fuel-powered police vehicles (such as a Chevrolet Tahoe or a Ford Expedition) are either much more costly or would be back-ordered for more than a year.

"If fuel-powered vehicles were purchased instead, gas and oil would also be an M&O expense, which — over the eight to 10-year life of a vehicle — could be considerably more than the estimated $3,000 one-time expense of installing each charging station and yearly utility costs to operate electric vehicles," the district explained, adding that budgeted funds for the vehicles and charging stations came from community-supported bonds for capital improvements.

Eanes ISD pointed to a variety of municipal police departments in the United States, including Dallas, that are using Tesla vehicles because of the return on investment.

Arnett's defense of the plan came after parents and community members expressed concern over the costliness of the new electric vehicles, which he said would cost taxpayers less than conventional patrol cars.

The Teslas will cost taxpayers in Eanes ISD about $42,000 each, according to local news outlet KVUE. The school board reportedly said the vehicles would cost more than $444,000, but a potential federal rebate could bring the cost down significantly.

The proposal also caught the attention of local politicians.

"So many people don't have the money to purchase a TESLA for themselves," Rep. Ellen Troxclair told CBS Austin. "So it's honestly a slap in the face to the taxpayers to turn around and say you didn't spend this money for yourself, but we want to take your money and buy it."

© 2023 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.