Starting Sunday, those wishing to prepare early can purchase hurricane supplies sales-tax-free for a limited time at local stores.
The state's hurricane preparedness Tax Holiday will allow early shoppers to save on sales tax with the purchase of supplies, such as batteries and generators from May 21 through June 1.
According to a statement issued by Gov. Jeb Bush's office, the tax holiday is part of the governor's comprehensive plan to encourage Florida residents to get into the habit of storm preparedness. Floridians are expected to save $41 million on provisions this year.
Sunshine Ace Hardware and Home Depot, both on Bonita Beach Road, were already preparing earlier this week, stocking generators and other supplies in prevalent places around their stores. Mark Bransfield, floor manager at Ace Hardware, said he held a meeting recently to inform each department so they employees could let customers know what supplies were available tax-free. He also made a list, which he shared with The Banner, that itemizes what products can be purchased and how much could be spent on each.
Confusion during the 2005 hurricane season about what was tax-exempt and what was not, as well as how much could be purchased of certain things, has store managers planning ahead.
"You'll save about $40 on a generator," Bransfield said.
Other items, such as flashlights, gas cans and coolers, can be purchased tax-free, also, but there are spending limits depending on each item, similar to the Back to School no sales tax event held at the end of every summer.
"This year, we're trying to educate customers on what is and what isn't tax-free," Bransfield said.
Last year Ace Hardware had customers asking, "Is this tax-free; is that tax-free?"
At Home Depot, store manager Angie Miller is already stocked with hurricane supply merchandise. She said you can never tell what customers will do. Some wait and some shop early. "We're getting supplies," Miller said.
Customers have been stopping by the store asking about the event, already, Miller added. She walked around the store pointing out battery displays and generators at the end of every aisle, as well as several key locations in the store that held gas cans, generators, batteries, lan terns, air conditioning units and hurricane panels.
"This weekend I've got a truckload of hurricane supplies for those who may be waiting to save at the tax-free event," Miller said.
Some residents said they may pick up a few supplies during the 12-day affair, but most have been stock piling the last few years.
"I'll probably buy something; probably a generator," Elio Gonzalez said Wednesday afternoon outside Home Depot. He was loading a water heater into his vehicle.
"It's been real bad these past few years," Gonzalez added. He hopes other residents will be prepared. Gonzalez will most likely be working during any storms this summer, because he works for the local power company.
"We'll try to keep your lights on," he said.
Business owners near the Gulf said they'll keep a watchful eye on any possible hurricanes, but they'll wait to the last minute.
"We always see which way the storm's going to go," Omar Botana, of Bay Water Boat Rentals in Bonita Springs, said. If one is heading toward Bonita Springs, he pulls his boats out of the water and hopes for the best. As for the tax-free savings event, he'll pick up batteries and flashlights, but everything else he needs, he already has.
"As long as we don't get a surge," Botana said, everything will be fine. "I think we're in the best area to get missed by a hurricane. We've been lucky, so far," he added.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release its 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season outlook on May 22.