Governor Nikki Haley has made it a priority to privatize South Carolina’s fleet of school buses. However, a new report released Friday may set those goals back a bit.
The Missouri-based TransPar Group studied a 2008 pilot program begun by former Governor Mark Sanford that turned over a bus maintenance facility in Mount Pleasant to a private company, General Diesel. The report found the move actually cost South Carolina more money and required more direct supervision from the state over the vehicles’ maintenance.
TransPar said the average cost over the three years was more than $9,500 each year. That was well above the state average of $8,100.
The report was released as the governor seeks input from companies about what steps South Carolina can take towards privatization.
However, state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais believes the project had several flaws that makes a direct comparison unfair, according to his spokesman.
General Diesel said most of its problems dealt with trying to maintain the state’s unerfunded, aging bus fleet. Zais said the company had only handled repairs in the past and had no experience running a maintenance facility.
The study noted a rough economy dogged the company. General also had expenses, such as company insurance, not found in state-run shops. The company also paid its employees nearly double the state’s wages. The report said General could have failed had the state Education Department not renegotiated its contract last year.
South Carolina is the only state in the nation that owns its own buses. The rest of the country has either privatized their fleets, or allowed them to be operated by individual school districts.