Shoppers in Antioch will pay an additional half-cent on every dollar they spend starting next April, after voters in East Contra Costa's largest city overwhelmingly passed a half-cent sales tax to fund more police services.
Meanwhile, voters in Moraga were more closely divided on a parcel tax measure that would have raised more than $1 million annually to fund the Moraga School District, and in San Ramon, voters heavily favored the idea of moving City Council elections to even-numbered years, while also heartily endorsing bids by the incumbent mayor and a city councilman for new terms.
Tuesday was the second time in three years that Antioch voters were asked to consider a half-cent sales tax hike aimed at boosting the city's police force and code enforcement staffing.
With nearly half the precincts counted at press time, results showed 68.8 percent of voters favoring Measure C, which needed a simple majority to pass.
With the measure's passage, Antioch shoppers will pay an extra nickel for every $10 spent during the next seven years, as the city's sales tax rate rises to 9 cents per dollar.
Supporters say Measure C will help to hire some 22 police and code enforcement officers, bringing the total number closer to where it belongs after five years of cuts. Opponents, however, contend there is no guarantee city leaders will spend the money on police, and the extra tax will drive shoppers to neighboring cities and place another burden on local families struggling financially.
The $4.7 million Antioch estimates it will receive from Measure C would go to the city's general fund, where it could be used for any legal municipal purpose -- including police, code enforcement, economic development, fixing potholes, senior and youth services and other programs.
City leaders have indicated the money would be used to lower crime and clean up blighted properties.
A seven-member citizens oversight committee, appointed by the City Council, and an annual audit are among Measure C's provisions to keep tabs on how the money will be spent.
The new sales tax takes effect April 1.
City staffing is roughly 60 percent of where it was in 2008 while its offices remain closed on Fridays. The number of sworn police is down from 126 officers five years ago to 85 now.
Meanwhile, public safety concerns in Antioch have escalated. Violent crime increased 30.6 percent in 2012, compared with the year before, while property crime jumped 22.8 percent.
A similar half-cent sales tax measure in 2010 was defeated.
In Moraga, a parcel tax measure that would have residents pay an additional $192 each of the next six years was falling just shy of the two-thirds majority needed for passage, with Measure B receiving 65.96 percent of the vote in early returns.
The temporary parcel tax would raise more than $1 million annually to help fund the Moraga School District's four schools and halt program cuts.
Measure B comes one year after voters rejected a similar parcel tax that asked for more money and did not have an expiration clause.
Property owners currently pay $325 per parcel to help fund the school district. That tax -- passed in 2004 -- raises about $1.8 million annually and also does not sunset.
However, officials say that cuts in state funding, an ongoing budget deficit and the exhaustion of parcel tax reserves forced them to return to residents to help fund the district.
In addition to maintaining programs, the Measure B tax would help the district while it waits for funding from a new state formula resulting from the passage of Proposition 30 last November.
In what may have been the town's last odd-year City Council election, early ballot results Tuesday showed San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson and 16-year Councilman Dave Hudson finding favor with the public once again.
With nearly two-thirds of precincts tallied, Clarkson had secured 95 percent of the vote, while write-in mayoral candidate and parks commissioner Bill Meine had less than 5 percent.
Hudson, who is competing with three candidates for two seats, including the one being vacated by Councilman Jim Livingstone, led all challengers with 30.4 percent of the vote. Not far behind was planning commissioner and middle school history teacher Harry Sachs, with 29.9 percent, followed by school volunteer Rene Matsumoto, with 27.1 percent, and litigation attorney Thomas von Thury, with 12.1 percent.
Voters also handily passed Measures D and E, which will save the city $142,000 per election by changing election years from odd to even. The next mayoral term will run for three years and council members will serve for five years, a year more than normal to accommodate the change.