Sales tax to improve the Thomas County Jail on the 2023 ballot

Tax funding could go towards making improvements at the Thomas County Jail.
Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 7:03 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2023 at 7:35 PM EDT
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THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - Early voting continues this week and registered voters will be asked if they want to continue a special 1% sales and use tax in Thomas County.

According to county officials, it is imperative that you come out to vote. Because you’re not only voting for one, not two, but three areas of concern that need your voice.

Nov. 7 is the referendum in Thomas County. This will allow residents to vote on the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

“Thomas County has had a SPLOST for about - probably since the late 1980s, and this tax has to be renewed by the voters every six years, so that renewal is coming up,“ County Manager Michael Stephenson said.

The county is estimating a total of $64 million over the course of six years. Of that, about 32 million will go towards county-wide projects including roads and bridges, government and public safety buildings and equipment, libraries and recreational facilities and water, sewer and stormwater projects.

The Jail Justice Center in Thomas County is just one of the areas where that SPLOST funding will go towards, to not only upgrade the facility but also some of the equipment, and to help with those safety concerns.

“This jail has been in constant use every day, seven days a week for 31 years. So, it’s been well maintained, well taken care of but we have some critical components of the jail that need to be replaced and updated,” Stephenson says.

“The structural portions of the jail, the interior and exterior, some of the doors, are degraded to the point where they need replacing and some of the control inside of the jail are 30 years old and outdated, there’s a lot of the improvements that’s going to be related to the controls and camera system surveillance,” Captain at Thomas County Jail Jerome Burgess said.

What happens if you don’t vote on the continuation of SPLOST Funds? Your vote is important as it can avoid an increase in property taxes or forgo capital improvements.

Your vote matters, and happening right now, early voting in Thomas County is underway. On the ballot is the option to continue a one-percent optional sales tax. But what happens if you do not vote?

The Jail Justice Center in Thomas County is just one of the areas where SPLOST funding will go to, to not only upgrade the facility but also some of the equipment and to help with those safety concerns.

“Get rid of some of the mechanical doors where you have motors that fail, it would be a swinging door like in your homes or anywhere else where the officer when they’re doing their bed checks or whenever they’re doing their head counts, they can go to the door and shut the door manually,” Burgess says.

Now, according to election officials, the turnout here in Thomas County has not been what they’ve expected. So far less than half of the people registered to vote have actually participated in Early Voting.

“You’re voting for people that are going to run your community and run your schools. and so, I’m somewhat disappointed or maybe I’m just fooled... I just thought it would be a lot more turnout,” Supervisor of Elections Frank Scoggins said.

So far, only about 1,300 voters have cast their ballots. So, what happens if you do not vote on the continuation of SPLOST Funds? According to County Leaders, there will be one of two outcomes.

“We’ll either have to forgo capital improvements, which will compromise the services that we provide, or we would have to look at a property tax but there’s been no decision made in that area by the county commissioners,” Stephenson says.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7 and to cast your vote you can go to the Thomas County Elections and Registration Building on 1402 E. Jackson Street.