South Carolina recently announced that it will use $9.33 million of the state’s share of Volkswagen (VW) settlement funds to purchase new propane school and transit buses. The funds will be used to purchase a total of 78 new propane-powered Thomas Built Buses for four school districts and three transit buses for the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments and the City of Anderson.
“This is a good day for South Carolina and a good day for our team,” McMaster said.
In June 2017, Gov. McMaster designated the State Department of Insurance as the lead agency in determining how the state’s $34 million share of VW settlement funds would be distributed. After a public comment period, the agency partially funded three of eight total applications, according to McMaster's office.
The state has been working for years on a plan to replace its aging school bus fleet, which is considered to be one of the oldest in the U.S. In January 2017, the State Department of Education asked the state’s General Assembly to fund the replacement of more than 1,000 of the state’s buses that are at least 20 years old, and worked with the state treasurer and legislators to create South Carolina’s first school bus lease-to-purchase program.
Meanwhile, in June of that same year, Gov. McMaster had vetoed $20.5 million in funding for hundreds of new school buses in the 2017-18 fiscal year, due to concerns that the funding would come from excess lottery proceeds that voters were told would go to scholarships. However, the state Legislature overrode that veto in January 2018.
The State Department of Education later confirmed in January that all school bus models year 1995 and 1996 were removed from the state's fleet and would be replaced with new ones.