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Tax holiday back; but belated
The tax holiday was started to help families equip their children for school each year. - photo by Stock photo

After beginning three school years without a reprieve from taxes on school-related items, Georgia parents will once again have a chance to save this year — but it comes at an inconvenient time for locals.
Liberty County students will be in school four days before the Aug. 10-11 holiday exempts items like clothing, shoes, computers and supplies.
And some parents and teachers say the timing is inconvenient.
Carol Lemke, a mother of two students and Joseph Martin Elementary School art teacher, is among them.
“As a mom, I’m annoyed that the tax-free day is so far past the first week of school,” Lemke said. “I went ahead and purchased all of my two kids’ uniforms — I had to buy complete sets for both kids — because they grew over the summer and none of their clothes from last year fit.”
The timing of the holiday also agitates the teacher in Lemke.
“Once school starts, everything is a whirlwind,” she said.
During the first month or two of school, Lemke spends between 10 and 12 hours each day preparing lessons, which leaves no time to brave the masses at discounts stores during the small window.
And few shoppers wait until the bell has rung to select their supplies, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and BIGinsight.  
A mere 2.7 percent of respondents wait until school to buy supplies, and 3.2 percent wait for items to go on clearance.
Instead, the survey found that most shoppers now are spreading their purchases out over a number of weeks to reduce the impact to their pockets.
The bureau estimates the average family of K-12 students spends $688 on school supplies.
The majority — 47.8 percent — of shoppers planned to begin shopping three weeks to one month before school, up from 42.4 percent last year.
Another 22.3 percent said they already had “made a dent” in their shopping lists, and 24 percent said they would shop one to two weeks before school, which rules out shopping in tax-free time.
The holiday period — a Friday and Saturday span — exempts  clothing or footwear items less than $100, personal computers and selected accessories $1,000 or less, and school supplies $20 or less.
“I estimate I’m losing about $20 to just get the shopping over and done with,” Lemke said. “I would love to keep that $20 in my pocket, but it’s just not possible this year.”
Wendy Merritt, owner of Coastal Kids Clothing & Gifts boutique on South Main Street, said she thinks it’s great that the tax holiday is back, but she wishes it was longer because some people cannot get away to shop during those days.
Those looking to save on their children’s clothing purchases also could try going the pre-owned route.
Merritt’s store carries pre-owned pants for girls and boys, and she said they fall between $5 and $7 per pair. She said will try to honor the tax holiday in her store.
Next door, the New & Not Consignment Shop has school uniforms in its window, and fliers that say their uniforms begin at $2.
But the Liberty County School System, which held a uniform drive and sale last year, has decided to hold the event every other year, according to Assistant Superintendent Mary Alexander.
Some schools had individual drives and sales, but those already have occurred. Alexander said she is not aware of any campus efforts to hold off on supply requirements until the holiday occurs.
“I do think that most parents will buy the essentials — you know, paper and pencils — and then wait to buy the rest until the tax holiday,” she said. “I know I will.”

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