ANTIOCH -- When they put the brakes last summer on a ballot initiative for a business license tax on residential landlords, city leaders said they would revisit it at a later date.
As City Manager Steve Duran put it, Tuesday night became that later date.
The City Council directed staff to meet with a grass-roots civic group, local apartment owners and the Chamber of Commerce over the next two weeks and craft a possible initiative to put before voters in November.
The council will consider the proposal May 27.
The city's proposal is a $250-per-unit yearly fee for single-family home rentals and $150 per unit for multifamily apartments and condominiums. Though the number could change after discussions, establishing a tiered split makes the proposal proportionate and equitable, Duran said.
It is estimated that additional landlord fees could garner about $2.6 million per year -- a significant boost for the city, which has struggled to maintain services and bring in revenue.
"We're not doing it just for the money. We're doing it because of a vision we have of what the city should be," Councilman Gary Agopian said.
"And it takes money for that to happen."
About a dozen members of the civic group, known as the Friday Morning Breakfast Club, spoke in favor of the tax Tuesday, calling for landlords to pay their fair share given the city services they receive. That group has been circulating a petition for a ballot initiative for a flat $240-per-unit tax, but it indicated the city's proposal is acceptable.
"This particular measure is not the panacea for everything, but it does provide a foundation," said Donald Freitas, a group member and former Antioch mayor. "We always want to treat business in a fair and equitable manner. (Landlords) have paid next to nothing in business license fees. We think that's wrong and needs to be corrected."
Theresa Karr, executive director of the Contra Costa chapter of the California Apartment Association, attended the meeting but did not speak. Karr said she had not had a chance to discuss the city's latest proposal with members.
Local apartment owners have balked at the idea -- saying it would unfairly single them out by charging them much more than other businesses.
Duran said the rental of residential real estate is a "unique business," as landlords see most of their financial benefit in asset appreciation. It also doesn't provide jobs other than property management and maintenance.
The proposal also would increase Antioch's minimum business license tax from $25 to $100. That figure was at $30 in 1947 and hasn't changed from $25 since the 1960s, Duran said.
"Fairness is really important to me," Councilman Tony Tiscareno said. "I appreciate that we're looking at the whole aspect of businesses out here."
Rentals make up about one-third of the roughly 33,000 properties in Antioch.
Antioch does not collect a business license tax for single-family homes.
Currently, landlords of multiple-family units pay the same license fee as other city businesses: $25 for gross receipts totaling up to $20,000; $1.25 per $1,000 for $20,001 to $1 million; and $1,250 plus 20 cents per $1,000 for anything over $1 million.
Antioch considered both the landlord tax and a sales tax last year but moved forward only with the Measure C sales tax after a survey indicated the measures would both fail if they ran in tandem.
Unlike last year, this version of the landlord tax is being sought for the general fund. That means it would only require a majority vote for approval.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.