BEAUFORT CO., Sc. (WSAV) – School buses have been an ongoing issue of reliability and safety for students across the South Carolina. Governor Henry McMaster included new buses in his proposed 2018-2019 budget Monday, doubling funding to lease school buses statewide.
This, after almost twenty school buses caught fire or dangerously overheated in South Carolina since August of 2015, according to The State; the most recent, in Anderson County just last week.
“The time has long passed to fix these buses, so I’m telling the people of South Carolina, and these children and their parents who are worried, we are gonna take care of this,” Governor McMaster said in his budget proposal.
He plans to add $5 million of recurring money to lease new buses.
“It’s too complicated, it’s too expensive to buy them, to maintain them, we need to lease them,” McMaster said, “One day we need to prioritize the whole system.”
That system is known to have some of the oldest schools buses in the country. In 2017, half were more than 15 years old, some dating back to 1988.
“In Beaufort County, for example, we have buses carrying students every day that are 20 years old or older,” said Jim Foster with the Beaufort School District, “The buses aren’t unsafe, but they are unreliable.”
In 2007, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a law requiring the Department of Education to buy enough buses every year to replace one fifteenth of their fleet, which would be about 375 buses a year… But there’s never been enough money to do that.
“The replacement cycle approved about 10 years ago, means that there wouldn’t be any buses older than 15 years in the fleet,” Foster said, “If we funded that cycle, that’s the way it would be, but unfortunately it hasn’t been funded.”
If they buy the buses, $5 Million would get 60 buses, but leasing with annual funds could get 293 buses.
In Beaufort, they’re not sure it’ll make a difference. “The Beaufort County School District spent about $3.5 million dollars to lease 40 buses,” Foster said, “Any additional money that school districts can get for buses is a good thing, but 5 million dollars is just a drop in the bucket.”