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Tax-free holiday, teacher gift cards coming soon
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Back to school is here for some and around the corner for everyone else. New teachers report to their respective schools today, teachers report on Friday and students return on Aug. 1. But before any instruction and learning can begin, school supply stores and big box retailers will be full of activity.

Teachers and parents can get more bang for their buck during the state's 2008 sales tax holiday. From July 31 through Aug. 3, general school supplies, computers and computer accessories will be tax exempt.

The exemption applies to the purchase of general school supplies with a sales price of $20 or less per item and a single purchase of $1,500 or less of personal computers and/or related accessories can be made tax free.

As the current economic conditions shows no prejudice, teachers can and will receive some financial help again this year. All full-time K-12 teachers employed in the Newton County School System as of Aug. 1 will receive a $100 gift card as part of Gov. Sonny Perdue's third annual Classroom Gift Card program.

Dubbed by many teachers as Sonny money, the gift cards allow them to purchase items for students to use in their classrooms, or restock dwindling personal supplies.

Former NCSS teacher and current Newton County Board of Education member C.C. Bates knows first hand what teachers spend on supplies each year.

"It's a good thing for sure, but teachers spend way more than $100 on their classrooms," Bates said at a recent BOE meeting. "I wish there was something more we could do to help them."

Fellow board member and vice-chair Rickie Corley added that the board should look into possibly matching the state's amount next year.

Regardless of the amount the state gives, many teachers will undoubtedly spend what it takes to outfit their classrooms.

"I usually spend a few hundred dollars out of my pocket," said Kimberly Fambrough, a speech therapist at Rocky Plain Elementary. "Since I teach speech and language, I buy a lot of different things like language games."

Not everyone in the classroom receives the state gift cards. For instance, Fambrough receives her allotment from the county. But she says she'll end up spending more than her allotment. She said she receives more than most teachers because she goes to more than one school.

Whether the money comes from the state or county, the cards can be used in conjunction with the tax-free holiday. In addition, if teachers wish, they can stay away from the busy retail locations the tax-free holiday is sure to incur as the gift cards can be used from midnight July 31 through noon on Aug.10.

The tax-free weekend has some exceptions. If the single purchase exceeds $1,500, the entire transaction is taxable. Also, the tax exemptions are intended for an individual's personal use. The exemptions exclude items rented, leased, purchased by businesses or purchased for resale. The exemptions do not apply to items sold at theme parks, entertainment complexes, hotels, restaurants and airports.

Parents can also purchase clothing during the tax-free weekend. Clothing and footwear purchases of $100 or less per item are tax exempt. But several items don't make the list. Clothing accessories such as handbags, umbrellas, cuff links, handkerchiefs, jewelry, key cases, wallets, watches and watch bands and ponytail holders and/or similar hair products are not exempt.

Parents who are facing a tight budget can also attend the Back 2 School Block party in downtown Covington on Saturday. The first 500 Newton County elementary students are eligible to receive book bags filled with school supplies at no cost. Parents can register their children on a first-come-first-serve basis at 5:30 p.m. at the square. The block party will run until 8:30 p.m.

Below is a list of school supplies recommended by the NCSS. For more information on back to school items, visit For more information on the tax-free holiday, visit