Originally created 01/24/02

School bus fund sought



AIKEN - Calling South Carolina's school buses "dilapidated dinosaurs," Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler said Wednesday he wants to spend the first six months of lottery revenue on buying new ones.

Legislators have not decided specifically what to do with the education lottery proceeds, which could be $67 million by the end of June.

Some legislators say dilapidated school buses are an old issue and should be routinely funded with money from the state's general fund.

Two full weeks of lottery sales generated $38.2 million. Mr. Peeler agrees with legislators who want revenue generated after June to fund college scholarships and initiatives for kindergarten through grade 12.

Lottery officials estimate the games will generate $127 million annually.

Rep. Roland Smith, R-Langley, said he supports buying new buses but that funding scholarships, upgrading technology in schools and helping underperforming schools should be the goals for initial lottery revenue.

Rep. Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said the initial revenue would best be spent on one-time items.

"We shouldn't be spending money on reoccurring issues like textbooks or teacher salaries," said Mr. Harrell, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which is drafting legislation to regulate lottery funds.

Mr. Peeler, a Republican candidate for governor, said that South Carolina's school buses are in terrible shape and that 1,643 of the school system's 5,653 buses need replacing.

"(An estimated) 320,000 students boarded a school bus this morning, some of them on buses more than 15 years old with a quarter-million miles on them," Mr. Peeler said while visiting Midland Valley High School on Wednesday. "In one year, we can make up for decades of neglect."

Buses are so old and rundown that buying new ones is better than fixing the old ones, he said.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.

Many of Aiken County's buses are older than the pupils riding them. Of the county's 127 school buses, 94 are were built in 1988 or earlier.