This year the Tennessee tax-free offerings have tripled — not only including the usual back-to-school weekend exemption on clothing, school supplies and computers, but expanding to offer a full week of taxless shopping on food and a whole year of tax-free shopping for gun safes and other gun safety features.
I always look forward to buying clothes and school supplies without having to pay tax, but this year I am particularly excited about the new weeklong exemption of food, since it includes restaurant food, grocery food and even food from caterers.
It would definitely be a good time to load up my freezer and stock up on staples and splurges for my personal pantry, but also a prime time to buy food to donate to a food pantry.
With the state sales tax standing at 7% and with local counties adding as much as 2.75% on top of that, a few glorious days of no-tax shopping is more than welcome. (Local tax is 2.25% in Davidson, Cheatham and Sumner counties and 2.75% in Williamson, Wilson and Rutherford counties.)
To maximize my savings, I am making my shopping list ahead of time, thinking about what my family will need in the next few months, and hoping to couple my tax savings with other enticing back-to-school and promotional offers from retailers.
Most years, this is the weekend when I update my walking/running shoes, since many retailers will price certain higher-end shoes under $100 to make them qualify for the exemption and then I enjoy the tax savings, too.
The Tennessee General Assembly unanimously approved the two extra sales tax holidays in the last session in hopes of providing Tennesseans some tax relief and help them save a little money.
And yes, items sold online are also eligible during all three sales tax holidays.
Here are the highlights:
Clothing, school supplies and computers
This annual tax-free weekend is from 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 30, to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1.
The clothing exemption includes general apparel that costs $100 or less per item, such as shoes, shirts, pants, dresses, etc.
The school supply exemption, which is great even if you don’t have school-age kiddos, includes supplies with a purchase price under $100 — items like binders, backpacks, crayons, paper, pens and pencils, as well as art supplies such as glazes, paint, drawing pads and artist paintbrushes.
Also exempt are computers, including laptops, and tablet computers, for personal use, if priced at $1,500 or less. The exemption does not include printer supplies, storage media like flash drives, or household appliances.
Food, food ingredients and prepared food
This holiday, which should help anybody who buys groceries, begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 30, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5. It includes prepared foods by restaurants, food trucks, caterers and grocery stores. There is no limit on food in terms of price.
There was a restaurant-specific sales tax holiday last year, but this is the first time for a tax holiday on food and prepared food.
The Department of Revenue made it clear that alcohol, tobacco, candy and dietary supplements are not included.
Gun safes and safety equipment
This new tax-free offering, which started July 1 and ends June 30, 2022, is designed to promote gun safety. It includes “a locking container or other enclosure equipped with padlock, key lock, combination lock or other locking device that is designed and intended for the secure storage of one or more firearms.” It also includes gun safety devices, including computerized locking devices for guns.
Mary Hance, who has four decades of journalism experience in the Nashville area, writes a weekly Ms. Cheap column. She also appears on Thursdays on “Talk of the Town” on NewsChannel 5. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook as Facebook.com/mscheap.
The Dickson County Board of Education discussed changes in its coronavirus guidelines for the school year that begins Monday. Aug. 2 and issues with staff, particularly salaries, at its monthly meeting last week.
Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks said there was a delay in getting all the air conditioners cleaned and running in district schools, and he attributed it to school buildings being in use for summer school.
The updated coronavirus policies include:
• Masks and facial coverings will be optional for all staff and students;
• Staff will encourage handwashing during bathroom breaks, meals, and other times deemed necessary;
• Whenever possible, students will socially distance by three feet;
• Students and staff not feeling well should stay home, but normal attendance rules and guidelines will be applied;
• If a student has been determined to have been in close contact, meaning less than six feet for more than 15 minutes, with someone who has tested positive for the virus, the parent or guardian will be contacted and the student required to quarantine.
• Sporting events, field trips, and similar activities will return to normal, unless another organization sanctioning the event, such as The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, has different requirements for the event.
• Schools have reopened their doors to the community, such as visitors, package drop-offs, etc. However, some schools have specific policies in place just for their locations.
According to Weeks, the district has 11 unfilled positions for teachers and staff (guidance counselors, etc.) and employs approximately 680 licensed teachers. He stated that this was the district’s most difficult year finding teachers, especially ones for math and upper-division science.
Weeks showed the board a graph showing the reasons teachers left in the last school year. According to that graph, 45 teachers retired in the past year; eight cited monetary reasons for leaving; and 42 took another job.
Board member Josh Lewis said he wanted to see a specific category for teachers who said they left because they aren’t making enough money. Board member Steve Haley said that he wants to see that category broken down further to show those leaving for better paying public school jobs and those leaving for better paying jobs in the private sector.
Weeks said he would consider that possibility.
Lewis said that Dickson County doesn’t have enough teachers to support the school system and has to recruit teachers from other counties. Board member Patricia Hudson said that nearby counties are paying more to their teachers so Dickson County is losing teachers to other school systems.
Weeks said the district’s main competition for teacher salaries is Clarksville-Montgomery and Williamson County. Weeks said that last year, the starting teacher’s salary in Dickson County was $39,072 and the average salary for all instructional personnel was $50,885.
According to Tim Adkins, Communications Director of the Cheatham County School District, the average district-wide salary there is $46,252.
According to documents on Williamson County Schools’ website, teachers’ salaries vary from $43,150-$73,190 based on the teacher’s education level and years of teaching experience.
According to documents posted on the Clarksville-Montgomery County School’s website, teachers’ salaries vary from $41,138-$78,579 based on the teacher’s education level and years of teaching experience.
The board unanimously approved a proposal to build a barn/agricultural building at Dickson County High School. Weeks said that last February several donors expressed interest in contributing to Dickson County’s Career and Technical Education program for the building to be used by the high school’s Future Farmers of America program.
According to Weeks, the donors would cover 90%-95% of the construction costs, while the rest can be included in the district’s budget.
Board member Joe Underwood said he would’ve liked to have had more details about the project before it had been decided upon in the proposal.
A storm drain replacement project along Sylvis Street in downtown Dickson is expected to affect traffic and parking in that area for the rest of the year.
Public Works Director David Travis said that the contractor is planning to begin the project Monday, Aug. 9, and it is anticipated it will continue into December. The project is along Sylvis Street from Dickson Funeral Home to Sisters Restaurant, a distance of about one-quarter mile.
“For the duration of the project, Sylvis Street will be restricted to one lane of one-way traffic northbound from East College Street to East Rickert Avenue,” Travis wrote in a letter to property owners in the affected area. “The open lane might change during different phases of the project and there might be brief periods that the street will be closed.”
At some points, the project also temporarily will affect traffic at the intersections of Sylvis Street with East College Street and East Rickert Avenue.
The city also is asking that businesses and residents on the affected block of Sylvis Street refrain from on-street parking. The contractors will attempt to identify and locate the owners of vehicles that need to be moved for the project, but Travis said in the letter that vehicles that cannot be moved could be towed to allow the work to continue.
“We ask for your patience during this period and believe when the project is completed there should be a noticeable improvement in the drainage issues that have been affecting the area,” Travis wrote.
The project was initiated during the construction of the new parking lot on the corner of East College and Church streets when the storm drain system was replaced from East Railroad Street to East College Street. The second phase will replace the system to where it ends in the area behind Sisters Restaurant.
At the June 7 council meeting, Travis recommended the Jones Brothers bid of $953,076. The council allocated $450,000 in the 2020-2021 budget and another $550,000 for the project in the 2021-2022 budget that took effect July 1.