A newly formed police department for the Eanes Independent School District (ISD) in Texas will have an all-Tesla fleet.
Forming a Police Department
The Eanes ISD Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution to create a police department for the district on Oct. 3. Talks to create the department came after a state law was first proposed in 2022, requiring one armed security officer at each campus across the state.
According to CBS Austin, the legislation followed the Uvalde school shooting where 19 students and two teachers were killed, with 17 others injured.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law to mandate the armed security in June 2023, according to KSAT.
Along with the resolution to create the police department was a resolution to purchase a fleet of vehicles for the police officers, with Superintendent Jeff Arnett explaining that an equipped police vehicle is necessary for incident response. The school district spans multiple facilities across 32 sq. mi.
Arnett proposed for the department to have nine Tesla Model Ys, a move that caused public backlash, leading the school board to pause its vote on the vehicle purchase.
Defending the Tesla Proposal
In a four-page rationale defending the Tesla purchase, Arnett said that Eanes ISD followed the legal procurement process for police vehicles and formally invited more than 90 registered vendors to bid in July and August 2023. Of the 90+ vendors, two qualified vendors responded.
According to Arnett, Austin-based Tesla offered the best value of the responsive bids, therefore prevailing in the procurement process.
Arnett emphasized that the vehicles are meant for fleet work, saying, "the proposed automobile for police officers manufactured by Tesla, Inc. is not a luxury vehicle, but rather a basic version equipped for police response and communication that provides the best value to district taxpayers."
Arnett stated that the vehicles offered in the second bid did not meet evaluated criteria as a long-term option for the Eanes ISD police department, so they were not deemed a "fiscally responsible value." He pointed to other law enforcement agencies across the country that have Teslas in their fleets.
Additionally, Arnett noted that traditional fuel-powered police vehicles are either much more costly or would be back-ordered for more than 12 months. He believes this may be why more dealers did not respond to the RFP and/or could not meet the specifications.
The Tesla vehicles would be available for delivery in 60 days.
Arnett told the school board that the more popular patrol vehicles are larger and would cost more to purchase and equip. The district was able to secure the Teslas for $42,000 each, with an additional estimated $7,000 each to be upfitted with equipment.
Budgeted bonds to purchase the vehicles and install charging stations come from community-supported bonds that provide for capital improvements. Arnett also emphasized that the bond monies are legally designated specifically for capital equipment expenditures, which don't come from or impact the same operating budget used to fund teacher and staff salaries.
Electricity use from charging, would however, come out of the same operating budget used for salaries. Still, Arnett explained that preliminary estimates are affordable within utility costs for each campus.
Arnett noted that if ICE-powered vehicles were purchased instead, fuel would still come out of that same budget, which — over the up to 10-year life of the vehicle — would cost considerably more than the estimated $3,000 one-time expense of installing each charging station and yearly utility costs to operate EVs.