The Scarborough School Board is asking the town to bond $688,000 for the purchase of laptop computers for high school students. CIP expenditures are “bricks and mortar” projects, such as building improvements.
The CIP budget is being justified because it is smaller than last year’s, so it is expected that this laptop purchase is a “slam dunk.” Our new facilities manager has done a bang-up job of keeping costs down and saving money. But this doesn’t mean that a spending spree is in order.
I support technology and ideas to improve access to laptops. For instance, offer a lease-to-own program for those who are in need. We should not borrow money for this purchase. We will be paying the debt service on the bond for years, and we will also be hiring staff members to issue and monitor them.
Laptops are obsolete in less than four years, and a third fail within three years. This is not a one-time expense. Once established, one fourth of these obsolete laptops will be gifted to the graduating seniors.
Many students already own laptops. I don’t recall a survey or any public discussion to determine need. Surveying students, taxpayers, and teachers is a logical first step.
With teachers being let go due to budget constraints, how can we turn around and buy laptops? Our tight economy is a direct result of our excessive borrowing and spending habits. Bonding should be reserved for long-term improvements; it shouldn’t be used for something that depreciates rapidly like laptops.