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Economy forces state to cut tax-free weekend

Staff Photo: Erin Evans
 Stores like Wal-Mart are stocking shelves with school supplies this week to keep up with shoppers who already are buying school supplies for the new school year. Pictured is Lora Lewis, a Covington Wal-Mart employee, restocking and reorganizing notebooks in the school supply area of the store. 

Staff Photo: Erin Evans Stores like Wal-Mart are stocking shelves with school supplies this week to keep up with shoppers who already are buying school supplies for the new school year. Pictured is Lora Lewis, a Covington Wal-Mart employee, restocking and reorganizing notebooks in the school supply area of the store. 

COVINGTON — If you were waiting to go shopping for back to school items until the sales tax-free weekend this summer, you were waiting for the wrong reason.

Recently, Georgia decided to cancel its statewide sales tax-free weekend due to budget shortfalls. The weekend generally was held in late July or early August, just in time for many school systems to begin their new school years.

Kindergarten

Book bag - no rolling bags

Change of clothes

1 16-count box of crayons

Plastic tri-fold nap mat

No. 2 pencils

2 pocket folders with prongs

1 spiral-bound notebook - 80 pages

1 container of wet wipes (baby)*

1 box plastic lock bags - pint size

1 box of tissue

1 pair of scissors (blunt)

2 glue sticks

First Grade

Book bag - no rolling bags

1 16-count box of crayons

No. 2 pencils

2 pocket folders with prongs

2 spiral-bound notebooks - 80 pages

1 container of wet wipes (baby)*

1 box plastic lock bags - quart size

1 box of tissue

1 pair of scissors (blunt)

2 glue sticks

Second Grade

Book bag - no rolling bags

1 16-count box of crayons

Notebook paper - 1 packet of 250 sheets

No. 2 pencils

2 pocket folders with prongs

2 spiral-bound notebooks - 80 pages

1 container of wet wipes (baby)*

1 box plastic lock bags - gallon size

1 box of tissue

1 pair of scissors (blunt)

2 glue sticks

Third Grade

Book bag - rolling book bags allowed

1 16-count box of crayons

1 notebook - 3-ring

Notebook paper - 1 packet of 250 sheets

No. 2 pencils

3 pocket folders with prongs

3 spiral-bound notebooks - 80 pages

1 container of wet wipes (baby)*

1 box plastic lock bags - pint size

1 box of tissue

1 pair of scissors (blunt)

2 glue sticks

Fourth Grade

Book bag - rolling book bags allowed

1 box of colored pencils

3 ink pens

1 notebook - 3-ring

Notebook paper - 1 packet of 250 sheets

No. 2 pencils

3 pocket folders with prongs

3 spiral-bound notebooks - 80 pages

1 container of wet wipes (baby)*

1 box plastic lock bags - quart size

1 box of tissue

1 pair of scissors (blunt)

Fifth Grade

Book bag - rolling book bags allowed

1 box of colored pencils

3 ink pens

1 notebook - 3-ring

Notebook paper - 1 packet of 250 sheets

No. 2 pencils

3 pocket folders with prongs

3 spiral-bound notebooks - 80 pages

1 box plastic lock bags - gallon size

1 box of tissue

1 pair of scissors (blunt)

1 Flash Drive - 1GB

This decision surprised some shoppers.

"I had no idea," said Latorya Cooksey of Social Circle, who was shopping at K-Mart in Covington for her children's school supplies.

Since she hasn't been working, she said she is already strapped to spend extra money on school supplies with or without a sales tax-free holiday weekend.

"It makes it harder to get what they really need to go back to school," she said. "It's a big concern."

Stores across the state are planning aggressive sales and promotions with the hope that consumers will hardly notice the difference.

Locally, many parents already are hitting the stores to get what their children need for school instead of waiting until the weekend before or after school starts back, when the sales tax holiday sometime fell in the past couple of years with earlier start dates.

"Right now, they're already shopping for back to school," said Nan Lamperski, manager of the Wal-Mart in Covington. "I feel like they are now realizing that there won't be a tax-free weekend, so they're going ahead now in getting started."

Although many back-to-school items are on sale in the coming weeks leading up to the first day of school, some stores feel like the canceling of the sales tax-free weekend will hurt sales.

"It will have an impact to a certain degree, especially those days," Lamperski said, adding that she hopes it doesn't have a big impact on sales.

Since 2002, the sales tax-free weekend helped consumers save on apparel, footwear, school supplies and electronics.

The tax holiday cost the state $12 million in revenue, and a similar break usually held in October for energy-efficient appliances and other items cost $500,000 in tax revenue.

John Heavener, president of the Georgia Retail Association, believes the state actually nets about $20 million during the sales tax breaks from salary, corporate and other tax revenue generated.

Newton County Schools begin the school year Aug. 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.