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Back-to-school tax holiday could end

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Georgia residents may not be able to take advantage of a back-to-school sales tax holiday this coming school year.

Government officials are planning the state's 2011 budget around the presumed elimination of the four-day tax holiday on education-related expenses.

The holiday period, typically held in early August before the school year begins, would cost the state up to $15 million in projected sales tax revenue this coming year, according to Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue.

"The revenue estimate that we've prepared takes into account the additional sales tax [from eliminating the sales tax holiday]," Brantley said.

Brantley added that the governor is urging the holiday be left out of this coming year's budget consideration, in order to help the state recoup anticipated losses in other areas of tax revenue. He said the 2011 budget is estimated to be about $17.7 billion, significantly less than the $18.6 billion initially set for the 2010 budget.

Henry County Schools Superintendent Michael Surma said he understands the state's position.

"In the difficult financial times the state finds itself, I know they are looking for any means to recoup dollars to help support education," Surma said. "But on the local level, hopefully, it would not seriously impact students preparing for schools."

Public school teachers would be affected by a repeat of this year's elimination of the $100 Classroom Card, part of an initiative created in 2006 by Perdue to assist teachers with classroom-supply purchases. Brantley said the state's 120,000 public school teachers did not receive the $100 stipend last fall, which saved the state about $12 million.

Brantley said eliminating the $100 Classroom Card and back-to-school sales tax holiday initiatives, coupled together, could save the state as much as $27 million. He said the amount is nearly equal to the $30 million the state saves when it directs local school boards to implement one system-wide education furlough day.

"I think the back-to-school sales tax holiday elimination is a good thing because of the state's shortfalls," said Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Education Association.

Chapman said he also understands eliminating this year's $100 Classroom Card.

"That was a good thing in helping teachers with supplies," he said, "but if it puts more money back into the system, it could provide more money to school districts."

The Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) has proposed an increase in the state's sales tax by a half cent to be earmarked for education, said Chapman, a GAE member. "GAE is supporting a half-cent sales tax that we believe will mend all of our financial woes in education," he said.