The bill known as the School Bus Privatization Act of 2012 would turn over the ownership and purchasing of the school buses from the state to the individual school districts.
District 40 Representative Walt McLeod is opposed to this bill citing problems with private enterprises, the high costs and how the school bus and maintenance shop on Airport Road in Newberry may no longer operate.
McLeod says, “the school bus system is working extremely well and we are lucky to have it,” and points out the state run system provides better service for less money.
McLeod wants what is best for the school children and the school district and doesn’t believe this bill is beneficial. He also cites when the Council on Aging in Newberry privatized their buses and the quality of the bus service diminished.
Senator Ronnie Cromer also cites this issue and says that he and other legislatures are inundated with complaints about the Newberry Council on Aging’s privatized bus system.
Cromer is not sure that privatization would save more money which is his primary concern.
He does point out that in most cases whenever privatization normally happens, it is better than the federal government.
However, he is not absolutely convinced in this case. Cromer does mention that perhaps if counties could choose whether to privatize buses or stand by the old system, that would be an option to consider in amending the bill.
Netzel consulted Newberry's director of student services, Dr. George Suggs, who expressed concerns that Newberry County would be forced under the proposed legislation to purchase more buses to replace aged ones.
The additional cost will likely force Newberry leaders to consider other transportation options:
The school district would have to research private companies.
Which is likely the true motivation of the bill.
Suggs also points to their transportation budget which for this year, their budgeted expenditures were about $1.38 million and they also have to consider bus drivers salaries, benefits, insurance, etc.
The school district’s 2012 budgeted revenue for bus drivers salary, benefits, insurance, etc. was about $5.65 million.