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Eye On Boise

Wed., Oct. 24, 2012, 2:49 p.m.

State releases a few more details about $180 million laptop contract

I still have not received a copy of the $180 million contract the state of Idaho signed yesterday with Hewlett-Packard Corp. and partners for laptop computers for Idaho high schools, but the State Department of Education just sent me this cost breakdown. It shows that the total amount of the contract is $181,935,125. Their figure for the total number of laptops matches the one from the RFP, at 90,376. But with the phase-in over the eight years, the total number of laptop-years in the contract comes to 554,251, because smaller numbers are included for the first, second and third years. The contract includes $292.77 for each of the 554,251 laptop-years, which adds up to $162,268,065.

Then, it adds on top of that $5.5 million for "incremental cost," defined as "upfront costs paid in the first few years of deployment for infrastructure" - even though the cost of setting up and maintaining the wireless networks is included in the $292.77 per-unit figure - and another $14,167,060 for "Buyout." The explanation for that: "This cost is only paid if the contract is severed for some reason. It is a built-in cost and may or may not be paid, but we chose to include it in the total cost. Cost without buyout is total $167,768,065."

This raises the question: If the voters, less than two weeks from now, turn thumbs-down on Proposition 3, does this contract require the state of Idaho to pay the contractors $14.2 million? Here's the answer from SDE spokeswoman Melissa McGrath: "We will not pay the buyout if Proposition 3 is overturned. There is specific language in the contract to address this."

Not yet answered: When does the buyout clause kick in?

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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