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Amid a rush, some relief

Back-to-school shoppers come out in droves to buy before the tax holiday ends.

By RITA FARLOW, Times Staff Writer
Published August 14, 2007

Largo Middle School teacher Melissa Whitington shops for books at Dean's List Educational Supply, a store for teachers, in Largo on Monday afternoon. She bought three books for her classroom for $42.97, saving $3.01 in sales tax. The popular annual tax holiday ended Monday.
[Jim Damaske | Times]
[Jim Damaske | Times]
Amanda Mangiapane, 15, Alex Pifer, 14, and Chelsey Kratochwill, 15, all sophmores at Clearwater High, shop for clothes at Forever 21 in Westfield Countryside mall Monday. An assistant manager at the store said some people waited to shop to take advantage of the annual sales tax holiday.

CLEARWATER - For Taylor Jensen, sales tax holiday savings mean more bucks to devote to her back-to-school wardrobe.

"With the extra money, I'll buy more clothes," Jensen said.

The 14-year-old was shopping at Forever 21 at the Westfield Countryside mall with a friend Monday, the last day of the annual tax holiday.

Gina Corsi, assistant manager at Forever 21, said some shoppers put their purchases on hold to take advantage of the savings. "The week before the tax holiday, we'd hear people in line say, 'Let's just wait until next week,' " she said.

They came back in droves over the last two weekends, Corsi said.

"It was a madhouse in here," she said.

Joshua Paladin, manager of the Vans store a few doors down, agreed.

"We've been extremely busy. It's our busiest time of year," he said.

The annual sales tax holiday was passed by the Legislature in 1998 to return a surplus of tax dollars to Floridians. During the nine-day period, shoppers can buy clothing, footwear and books under $50, and school supplies under $10, exempt of state and local sales taxes.

Shoppers on Monday estimated they saved anywhere from a few pennies to $80 in forgiven sales tax.

"I actually came out today because of (the tax holiday)," said Nikki Mahadeen of Tarpon Springs.

Mahadeen was shopping with her mom, Christine Blackford, and her 3-year-old daughter, Hailey. The trio had just left the Children's Place and the Disney Store, where Hailey got a princess denim jacket she can wear to preschool.

"We're actually shopping for winter clothes, because by the time winter comes, they'll be gone," Mahadeen said.

Laurie Preller hit the mall on her day off to ready her son Kevin for the seventh grade at Safety Harbor Middle School. The pair had bought some clothes at Sears and were headed to JCPenney to look at tennis shoes. Preller said the sales at Sears were good, but that, so far, the sales tax savings had been minimal.

"When we go for the shoes it'll be a good deal, because they're expensive," she said.

Paula Migliorini of New Port Richey estimated she saved about $15 in sales tax on new school clothes.

"It saved a little, not a huge amount," she said.

Migliorini lamented the fact that her son Matthew Curti wouldn't receive a list of required school supplies until his orientation at J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey today, the day after the sales tax holiday ends. "That is not helpful," she said.

While several teens said they would put the extra money toward more clothes, parents had another idea.

"I'll probably put it into savings," said Lori Gooding of Dunedin, who was out shopping for her four children, ages 9 to 17.

It wasn't just students and their parents gearing up for the start of a new school year. At Dean's List Educational Supply store in Largo, teachers browsed through rows of curriculum materials and classroom supplies.

"(The sales tax holiday) always hits at the same time the teachers are buying anyway, so it's a little extra for them," said store manager Marilyn McKinney.

For Melissa Whitington, that meant a $3 savings in sales tax on problem-solving books. But every little bit helps, Whitington said.

"We end up spending a lot out-of-pocket," she said.

[Last modified August 14, 2007, 07:13:26]

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