School supplies can break a budget
by Jennifer Cohron
Aug 02, 2012 | 1572 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the first day of school less than a month away, local families are digging deep in their pocketbooks to make all of the necessary purchases.

The average parent with children in grades K-12 is expected to spend $688 this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual Back-to-School spending survey. Last year’s estimate was closer to $600.

Parents who took part in the survey predicted that they would spend nearly $250 on clothes and accessories, another $130 on shoes and an average of $95 for items such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks. The rest of their budget was set aside for electronics such as a home computer, laptop or cell phone.

However, some area residents are struggling to pay for the essentials their children need to get an education.

Local Salvation Army director Lona Courington said she expects the nonprofit’s annual back-to-school supply program to serve more than 200 children this year.

Courington added that it is easy to understand why some families need assistance in the current economy.

“We anticipate spending between $40 and $65 per child just for supplies. Now multiply that for an average family with three kids and tack on the cost of three or four new outfits each because children outgrow their clothes so quickly at that age,” Courington said.

In recent years, schools throughout the city and county systems have started offering parents the option of giving teachers a $25 or $30 donation rather than purchasing the supplies themselves.

According to an explanation printed on the supply list for Bankhead Middle School, the donation is more economical because teachers can buy the items in bulk for a lower price.

“We feel this will lift the burden of fighting the crowds when the time comes to buy school items. This will also ensure that all the students have the necessary supplies and all supplies will be equal,” the letter states.

This week, Daily Mountain Eagle staff purchased items from West Jasper Elementary School’s first grade supply list.

The cost of the supply kit that the school is offering to parents is $30. The Daily Mountain Eagle spent $50 before tax for the same items plus an additional $10 for a backpack.

This weekend, many Alabamians are expected to participate in the state’s seventh annual school sales tax holiday.

While the event is popular among consumers and retailers alike, a report released this week by The Tax Foundation called such promotions “political gimmicks” that “do not promote economic growth or significantly increase consumer purchases.”

“If a state must offer a ‘holiday’ from its tax system, it is a sign that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round,” one of the key findings in the report states.