Commissioners OK funds for school system to purchase Apple devices

Published 12:01 am Friday, January 20, 2023

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners  unanimously voted to supply the funds for a new Apple lease agreement during Tuesday night’s meeting. But they wanted to make sure it was a good deal for taxpayers first.

The Rowan County Board of Education decides whether or not to buy new equipment, but commissioners have to approve the funds. Commissioner Greg Edds led discussion about purchasing devices for the next school year since Rowan-Salisbury Schools enters a lease agreement with Apple every three years to bring its 18,665 students the most updated devices. The term “lease” is confusing because usually it means you have to give something back at the end of the term. But the school system is purchasing the equipment, and once the lease is up, the option remains to sell the devices.

The new lease with Apple will cost $11.5 million. This includes 20,060 iPads, 1,900 Macbook airs, 500 Apple TVs, AppleCare support, USB C cables and professional development courses to provide teachers training, according to school officials. The Board of Education voted 5-2 to enter into the new lease agreement during the Dec. 22 meeting.

Commissioners had questions regarding the upcoming lease and whether the three-year option was best if the current devices were in good enough condition to not buy new computers and
iPads or of they could be used for another year without any major problems.

In discussion with Apple representatives, the commissioners asked questions and came away with three reasons why purchasing new equipment seemed to be a good call:

• Since the lease ends this year, the school system can sell the devices on the market with a projected total of $3.3 million in profits. Waiting another year to sell those devices could reduce those profits by $1 million.

• Built into the new lease are zero financing rates. Next year, the county would have to pay Apple an additional $1.3 million for the new interest rate.

• Apple’s warranty known as “AppleCare,” which provides maintenance and hardware services for broken devices, would no longer be available once the lease expires. This means maintenance would have to be the school system’s job, which could cost roughly $1 million.

So, if the lease costs $11.5 million and the school sells the current devices for $3.3 million, that cuts the cost to $8.2 million. There is no charge in interest because of the zero financing rate.

If the devices are kept another year and then sold, the profits would be $2.3 million. Add next year’s new interest rate of $1.3 million, plus the $1 million in maintenance  then the number is back up to $11.5 million.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools Superintendent Kelly Withers spoke during the meeting on the importance of the devices in the classroom. They are used to grant staff and students access to content, check the validity of sources, connect to the real world and help students design products that showcase their skills. They are also used to conduct state and local testing.

“For us the devices are about three things: access, creation and connection,” Withers said.