Tillman county residents approve sales tax to keep jail open - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Tillman county residents approve sales tax to keep jail open

(Source: KSWO) (Source: KSWO)

FREDERICK, OK (KSWO) – Officials in Tillman County were relieved when voters approved a half-cent sales tax  to help keep the jail open.

The tax will pay off the bond for the construction of the jail and will remain in effect until it's paid off in 17 years.  County Commissioners originally proposed the tax after the Department of Corrections canceled its contract with the county and relocated inmates to private prisons, leaving the county at a loss of about three million dollars. 

Chairman of the Tillman County Commissioners Joe Don Dickey said an 85% approval rating for this tax showed that residents believed it was the best decision,  as opposed to the other option of a property tax increase.

"If you allow it to happen the other way it's forced upon you and with judgments and things of that magnitude," Dickey said. "You don't have a lot of control over it. This way, you did control your own situation to some degree."

He said it may have been different if they were offered another contract similar to the one with the DOC, but said those contracts are never guaranteed for more than a year or two.

"This is a dedicated revenue stream that you can depend on,” Dickey said. “I know, the talk has been about it dwindling though the years, and that's true, it probably will, but I still think it gets us to the end of the road, to the end of the payoff."

While tax revenue from residents is something they will be able to depend on, Dickey said it is only step one.

"We've got to go out, and do other things and try to enhance our position even better and that's going to have to come with housing some prisoners of some kind from somewhere," he said.

He said they hope to get another contract so they can rehire some of the employees at the sheriff’s department that were laid off.

"And if we can obtain a decent contract from somebody that will be able to put this community back and in a better position that it was prior to the exodus of the DOC," Dickey said.

And even though the sales tax was approved, they're still not out of the woods. The increase doesn't go into effect until October first, and they won't begin to see the revenue from it until December.

Dickey said until it does take effect, they’ll have to come to an agreement with the bond company about payments.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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