ANTIOCH -- A grass-roots civic group is revisiting a proposal to be placed on the ballot this fall that would impose a yearly $240-per-household business license tax on residential landlords, dedicated solely to public safety.
And, much like when the idea surfaced last summer, local apartment owners are balking at the idea -- saying it would unfairly single them out by charging them much more than other businesses.
Members of the Friday Morning Breakfast Club group recently submitted a petition for a ballot initiative to the City Clerk's office. They plan to publish a notice and start collecting signatures this week.
"Basically, it's the same proposal we submitted last June," said Donald Freitas, a group member and former Antioch mayor. "This helps close a loophole and create a dedicated, long-term way to fund public safety."
They would then have to receive signatures from 15 percent of Antioch voters over the next six months.
Meanwhile, City Manager Steve Duran said he plans to meet with the Breakfast Club group and members of the local chapter of the California Apartment Association and see if an agreement can be reached on a fair and balanced ordinance.
Rentals make up about one-third of the roughly 33,000 properties in Antioch. Multiple-family-unit landlords pay the same license fee as other city businesses; $25 for gross receipts totaling $0 to $20,000, $1.25 per $1,000 between $20,001 to $1 million and $1,250 plus $. 20 per $1,000 for anything over $1 million.
But, some apartment landlords have not paid business license fees for years, as the city has had collection issues because of short staffing. Meanwhile, city staff last year discussed extending that fee to single-family residences, including homes, condos, townhomes and duplexes.
Rentals, many of which are multimillion dollar ventures, account for higher proportion of police calls for services than other businesses, Freitas said.
"This will ensure they pay their fair share," he said.
The group estimates that the additional landlord fees could garner about $2.6 million per year.
Theresa Karr, the apartment association's executive director, disagrees. She said it is "unfairly singling them out to pay for everybody."
Antioch should take a broader look at its "archaic" business license taxes to address its long-term financial stability, Karr said, saying it is way lower than other communities.
Apartment owners also say the tax will likely lead to rent increases, placing more financial burden on renters, many of whom have lower incomes.
The City Council last year had considered placing both the landlord fee and a half-cent sales tax on the ballot that fall, but ultimately decided to move ahead just with the sales tax after a survey suggested neither would pass if on the ballot.
At the time, city leaders said the group should work with the California Apartment Association on a solution everyone could live with. They added if an agreement wasn't reached, the city should consider the landlord tax in November 2014.
Members of the Breakfast Club, Apartment Association, Delta Association of Realtors and Antioch Chamber of Commerce met several times over the past few months, but neither side budged.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.