1108 polling place.jpg

Poll workers, from left, Neziree Banks, Ossie Wilson and Alma McCray await voters in the city council election Tuesday at Shaw Gym. Wilson described voter turnout as ‘regular’ but not fast-paced. The county referendum on the special purpose local option sales tax was voted on on a different ballot; the poll workers for that election are in the background.

Colquitt County voters approved extending a sales tax to fund community infrastructure improvements, with nearly 80 percent casting ‘yes’ ballots on the issue.

The approval of the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) will keep the current levy, which was set to expire at the end of 2012, on the books for an additional six years.

In unofficial results, 2,002 voters approved of the 1-cent sales tax, with 530 voting against it. A little more than 14 percent of the county’s registered voters turned out for the special election. Typically, sales tax votes have low turnouts here but pass with big margins.

Elected officials estimate the tax will bring in $36.35 million over the six years. Of that, $14 million will go toward county road, street and bridge projects, with $7.89 million for improving Moultrie’s wastewater treatment plant.

Another $4 million will fund county public safety vehicles and road equipment, and $2 million is for public works equipment for Moultrie.

“It’s something that we desperately needed to keep the county in operation without going to the property owners for taxes,” Colquitt County Commissioner Ray Saunders said.

Saunders said he was not surprised by the margin of voter approval because of governmental entities’ past stewardship of sales tax funds and that the tax fairly shares the burden of paying for government.

“The board of commissioners, the cities, have used that sales tax money for the benefit of the people of the county,” Saunders said. “I think everybody that uses the system, whether it’s the schools or highways, whatever it might be, ought to pay their fair share.”

The tax also includes $2 million for Colquitt County Hospital Authority, $1 million for the Moultrie-Colquitt County Development Authority and $150,000 for Moultrie-Colquitt County Airport Authority.

The $1 million will help bring much-needed jobs to the county, development authority member Jimmy Jeter said after learning the results of the vote.

“Certainly the passage of the sales tax tonight will bode well for future economic development,” he said. “It gives us the ability to do the kinds of things we need to remain competitive in the development world.”

Commission Chairman Benny Alderman said he was “proud” that voters favored the sales tax extension in overwhelming fashion.

“That’s great that we can continue to move forward,” he said.

React to this story: