Zais: South Carolina School Bus Fleet Too Old

12:47 AM, Jan 17, 2014   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Over 4,000 of the buses that your children ride to school in,  more than 16 years old and state Superintendent Mick Zais says it costs more to maintain the buses than it would to just buy a new one.

"We've got buses that are transporting our children that are over 20 years old, most people don't have cars or anything in their houses that are over 20 years old, especially not when it comes to their children," said Representative Todd Rutherford.

There are more than 5,000 buses in our state...and 60 percent of those buses are 15 years old or older; the oldest buses are nearly 30 years old.

"We need 273 million to buy more than 3,000 busses to get the fleet up to par," said Dino Teppara, Spokesperson for the Department of Education.

Last year the department of education requested 34 million dollars to buy 414 new buses. The legislature appropriated 23 million but the department has only received 15 million.

 Teppara is the spokesperson for the department and he says lawmakers need to find a permanent solution.

"It has to be the general assembly because we are the only state in the country that operates a bus fleet, so the way it is set up now the general assembly has to find a way to replace these buses."

For years lawmakers have not kept their promise to replace a school bus after 15 years.

Rutherford says lawmakers need to work together to find a way to put our states children safety first.

"When we bought buses in the 80's we bought buses that were 10-15 years old, when we bought buses in the 90's we bought buses that were 10-15 years old. The state buys these buses for the districts and divvy's them out, we've got to do better than that," said Rutherford.

From 2003- 2013 70-million dollars in lottery funding went to purchasing buses. Recently Superintendent Zais has proposed a privatized system.

"Look in the future to a system that's privatized where the district are able to operate the buses themselves, it would be much more efficient, it will be more cost effective for the tax payers and at the end of the day we will have newer buses for our children to ride on," said Teppara.

The maintenance for one bus is 12-thousand dollars; that's means it would cost 66 million to repair the whole fleet.

"There is no amount of money that we are going to spend to keep our children safe, the key thing is if we are going to find a consistent source of funding to replace older buses and the reality is it costs us less money to buy a new bus than it is to maintain the upkeep for an older bus."

With the legislative session just starting this week, there are several proposals on the table for what the future of our bus system will be.



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