Monday, April 9, 2012

Calhoun hears concerns over bus privatization

Concerns about the proposal to effectively privatize the state's school bus system were heard at a recent meeting in Calhoun County, according to the Orangeburg Times and Democrat.

The proposed state bus transportation bill that would transfer the financial responsibility and maintenance of school buses to the local districts is like “a grenade waiting to go off,” says Jerry Sullivan, Calhoun County School District chief financial officer.

A grenade that would likely explode a local school budget, I presume.

Sullivan at the school board’s March 19 meeting said he’s concerned about Bill H4610 which has been sent to the S.C. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Taxation. He said the proposed legislation appears to be “on the fast track” for passage.

The legislation, if approved, would require the district to either operate and pay for its own fleet of school buses or privatize the transportation of students.

Isn't that clever? The bill offers local school districts an option: Buy these aged school buses from the state and continue to run your own public school bus system under rigid new state regulations without state support, or contract out your transportation services to a private company.

Sullivan said 16 of the district’s 24 buses are more than 15 years old and, by law, can no longer be used to transport students. The district would have to replace those buses at a cost of approximately $1.3 million, he said. The state, however, has been operating the same buses even though they are more than 15 years old, Sullivan said.

That's funny. The state operates these old buses, but once this bill becomes law and districts are forced to buy the state's buses, the state won't let districts operate the same buses because they'll suddenly be too old.

The district would probably have to privatize transportation due to the cost, he said, with the changeover being done over a three-year period.

Bingo! Privatization will be achieved.

Board Chairperson Joyce Parrish said, “My biggest scare is money taken from the classrooms and given to buses.”

Sullivan noted the bus maintenance shop is used by the Calhoun and Swansea school districts, saying that brings other unknowns into the equation.

Follow the money, folks. It leads somewhere, I guarantee.

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