CCSD considering bus operations takeover, could cause tax increase

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - After a week that saw 78 school buses break down, the Charleston County School District is considering operating its own bus fleet.

If that happens, officials say taxpayers may have to foot part of the bill.

"We heard today that we had several buses that broke down three times, three times on their first route, that is unacceptable," school board member Michael Miller said.

Miller chaired a committee meeting Tuesday morning to address the school bus issue.

Officials say 77 of the buses that broke down are maintained by the state and the other one is maintained by Durham Bus Company.

"Transportation is a very complex system. To think we can transport over 25,000 students on a daily basis traveling 29,000 miles a day to 10,000 stops a day. To think that we won't have some challenges we would be living in Nirvana," CCSD Chief Financial Officer Michael Bobby said.

Officials say the biggest problem is the age of the buses provided by the state, many which are more than 20 years old.

Miller says it's time for the state to step up to the plate and provide better running buses, or give the district the funds to run its own bus fleet, but doing so might require a tax referendum.

"I think maybe that ought to go as a referendum to see if taxpayers are willing to take on what I call double dipping. We're already doing the one cent sales tax for our capital projects," Miller said.

Whether it's more tax dollars or some other solution, officials say the school bus problem has to be fixed for the sake of the kids who ride them.

"School doesn't start when kids go to the classroom, it starts when children are at our bus stops," Miller said.

The school district says it wants to hear from the public first before deciding whether to make a move to take over the bus operation.

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