Fulton County considering sales tax increase to pay for $2B new jail

Fulton County commissioners are considering increasing sales tax countrywide to fund a $1.7 billion new jail facility. Now the ACLU is speaking out against that proposal, urging county leaders to consider other options. 

"You’re going to have to fix systemic issues," Deputy Policy and Advocacy Director Fallon McClure said Wednesday. 

McClure told FOX 5 that despite worsening conditions inside a deteriorating Fulton County Jail facility, building a completely new structure triple the size isn’t the answer. 

"This proposal was going to expand bed space significantly. It’s one of those things where if you build it, you’re gonna fill it up because you have incentive to," she explained. 

In the months since the DOJ launched an investigation into the death of an inmate found covered in bed bugs at the jail, county leaders are still trying to figure out how they’ll pay for the new facility carrying a $1.7 billion price tag

The latest proposal on Wednesday was a countywide sales tax increase after discussions about raising property taxes in previous meetings hit a wall. 

County officials did not share concrete details on the proposed sales tax percentage increase but said property taxes would potentially increase by three to four mills. 

"To accommodate the building of a new jail, I just don’t know how we do it without a property tax…if we’re not gonna do a sales tax increase, then I think the only way we can get this done is a property tax increase, Fulton County Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. told Fox 5. 

He said it’s a difficult decision that’s been put off for too long. He and other county leaders discussed an option to renovate the old building for $100 million to cut down on costs during Wednesday’s meeting. 

"We are literally stuck between a rock and a hard place." 

ACLU officials wrote a public opinion in support of that plan. Commissioners said the option to renovate would mean no considerations for separating general population inmates from those with mental health issues. 

A vote Wednesday to conduct a second study on how much jail space is needed to comfortably house inmates failed to get enough support. 

The sales tax increase would have to get approval through the state legislature at next year’s general assembly and then it’s up to voters to decide. It wouldn’t go into effect until late next year at the earliest.