Budget deal includes $55M for school repairs, $29M for buses

June 1, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina legislators’ budget compromise would distribute grants for school repairs, take unsafe school buses off the street and provide colleges a slight boost.

The $8 billion deal for state taxes, reached late Wednesday, ended weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations by a six-member legislative panel. The full House and Senate are expected to approve the compromise in a special, one-day session Tuesday, which would send Gov. Henry McMaster his first state budget.

The fiscal year starts July 1.



The plan’s nearly $29 million for new school buses allows the state Department of Education to replace more than 400 rear-engine buses that are prone to overheating and fires and expensive to maintain. However, that still leaves hundreds of the problem buses, bought in 1995 and 1996, in operation statewide. Hundreds more are even older, dating as far back as 1988, but cause fewer headaches.

The deal adds $60 million to the so-called “base student cost” for K-12 schools, which increases that per-pupil spending by $75, to $2,425. That money, one of several funding sources for public schools, is distributed to districts based on a 1977 formula adjusted annually for inflation. The state hasn’t fully funded it since the Great Recession.

The compromise allots $55 million for grants to help refurbish dilapidated schools in high-poverty districts. The distribution comes three years after the state Supreme Court ordered legislators to improve opportunities for students in poor, rural districts. Issues cited in the 2014 ruling included decrepit buildings.

Districts eligible to apply for the money include those that initially sued the state in 1993 and any other district where at least 80 percent of students live in poverty.

South Carolina’s 33 public colleges would cumulatively get an extra $12 million, with $2 million of that going to the University of South Carolina and $1.5 million to Clemson University. The Medical University of South Carolina would additionally get $3 million to re-establish an adult burn unit. The state has lacked one since 2002.

The plan allows for an additional $1 million in K-12 private school tuition scholarships for special needs students, bringing to $11 million the total tax credits available to people who donate to scholarship-granting groups. The $2 million in additional credits available to parents who pay for tuition directly remains the same.



The compromise provides no across-the-board pay raise or bonus for state workers. But some law enforcement agencies do get money to increase wages to combat turnover.

The Department of Natural Resources gets $4.2 million for its law enforcement officers. The Department of Corrections gets $5.4 million, and the Department of Juvenile Justice gets $500,000. The State Law Enforcement Division gets $407,000 specifically to boost officers to a higher rank.

The budget plan puts $25 million toward covering state employees’ rising health care premiums. Their deductibles and co-pays won’t rise either. But more money will come out of their paychecks for pension benefits.


The plan puts $150 million into shoring up the state pension system for public workers, following a law passed last month that increases employers’ rates for the next six years. The designation fully covers the law’s required 2017-18 rate hike for state agencies funded primarily by state taxes and covers half the increase for other employers in the system, including colleges and local governments.

The compromise, passed seven months after Hurricane Matthew struck South Carolina, provides $68 million to reimburse state and local governments for cleanup costs. It sets aside $700,000 specifically for the Marion County hamlet of Nichols, which was nearly wiped out by the floodwaters.