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City Hall quietly overrides Stringers veto of school bus company bailout

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City Comptroller Scott Stringer attempted to block an $890 million contract for the takeover of a school bus operator once owned by a major donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio — only to have City Hall quietly override his veto, The Post has learned.

Stringer’s office tried to nix the deal after the Department of Education refused to provide key details about the takeover of Reliant Transportation and its 1,000 school buses, including the total purchase price or the startup costs for the new city-run nonprofit — NYC School Bus Umbrella Services — set to operate the fleet.

The DOE also refused to provide Stringer with any details about its independent appraisal of Reliant’s financial health, which found the company has just $16.6 million in assets while carrying $18.6 million in pension liabilities.

“The DOE has now chosen to skirt accountability once again and push through this nearly $1 billion contract without addressing numerous issues raised by my office, including the lack of details about long-term costs to New Yorkers,” said Stringer in a statement. “Students, teachers, parents, and school staff deserve far better fiscal responsibility and transparency from the DOE.”

It’s the latest entry in the months-long stonewall by the de Blasio administration — which once promised to be the most transparent in history — in response to questions from the press and government watchdogs about the deal.

Officials have repeatedly claimed they are unable to provide the price tag for the Reliant buyout and other key details because they have not yet finalized the takeover.

But the still-pending nature of the transaction didn’t stop the DOE from asking Stringer’s office to approve the five-year, $890 million contract to run the fleet of buses — via NYCSBUS — once the takeover is complete.

The administration’s contract proposal submitted to Stringer included a draft budget document that was so tentative, DOE officials left one of the five key cost categories blank for several years, filling in the boxes with dash marks.

Stringer wrote in his letter objecting to the veto override that it is “wholly contrary” to accounting practices to “justify over $890 million in registered contract value with such sparse information, let alone speculative costs that are not finalized.”

“[T]he value of this contract to NYCSBUS is certainly greater than the approximately $890 million present on the current contract documents,” Stringer wrote in a letter sent to Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter on July 9, in which he loudly protests the administration’s decision to move forward with the deal.

“The public have a right to know how City-tax money is being spent and to consider the prudence and effectiveness of DOE’s purchase of Reliant and creation of NYCSBUS,” he continued.

The de Blasio administration first announced the takeover of Reliant in October and put the $890 million contract to operate the new nonprofit purchasing the company’s assets that next month.

The deal quickly came under scrutiny because Reliant was once co-owned by Alex Lodde, a key donor to de Blasio’s failed and scandal-ridden 2014 effort to bankroll a Democratic majority in the state Senate.

“The Comptroller has received an abundance of information on the NYCSBUS contract over the past year,” said DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon. “It is irresponsible of him to ceremoniously reject a school bus contract that will ensure kids, most of whom are students with disabilities and those in shelter, are transported safely to school.”

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