Supply prices have dropped, plus it's Ohio's Tax-Free Weekend

Parents might be paying less for school supplies this year, according to a new pricing analysis.

The 2018 Huntington Backpack Index, compiled by Huntington National Bank and Communities In Schools, shows a drop in supply costs for elementary and middle school students—the first such decrease in five years.

According to the annual back-to-school forecast, which started in 2007, college preparatory items rose 10 percent from last year, but classroom supply costs dropped across all grade levels. School fees stayed flat. The index tracks only the cost of fees and required classroom supplies.

Families can expect to pay, per child:

$636.96 for elementary school students, a 4 percent decrease from 2017 $941.18 for middle schoolers, down 6 percent $1,354.57 for high school students, a drop of 9 percent

Each year, Huntington calculates the index based on fees and supply lists from a cross-section of schools in the eight states the bank serves, using pricing from national online retailers. (See chart for what each tier includes.) The 2018 forecast was released Aug. 1.

Huntington pointed out that back-to-school shopping remains a challenge for families living in poverty—some of whom find help from sympathetic teachers. A survey from the National Center for Education Statistics showed 94 percent of public school teachers pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, spending an average of $479 annually. The nonprofit Communities In Schools aims to help children in need succeed in the classroom, through efforts such as providing supplies to students and public school partners.

If you’re looking to save even more money, head to the stores Aug. 3-5. It’s Ohio’s Tax-Free Weekend, a “sales tax holiday” that waives taxes on certain clothing and supply purchases. These include clothing priced at $75 or less per item and school supplies and instructional materials costing $20 or less.

The state legislature made the annual holiday permanent as of this year via Senate Bill 226. Prior tax-free weekends were one-year-only affairs, held in 2017, 2016 and 2015. The event will take place annually the first weekend in August.