ANTIOCH -- Residents here will be asked if they are comfortable paying an additional half-cent or three-quarters of a cent sales tax on purchases over the next 10 years to increase the police force.
Antioch City Manager Jim Jakel told city leaders this week he has been in contact with a consultant to help with a residential survey, and asked for direction to help in its preparation.
The City Council said the survey should examine what level of support there was for the two proposed sales tax plans, along with a possible business license tax on landlords.
"We want to hear from the community, listen to what they say, and go forward," Mayor Wade Harper said.
Estimates by a city-hired consultant say a half-cent sales tax would likely raise about $4.7 million each year, while a three-quarter-cent sales tax would bring in about $7.1 million, finance director Dawn Merchant said.
However, the cost to get the police department back to its pre-recession level of 126 sworn officers, along with a full complement of non-sworn officers and additional costs for vehicles and safety equipment, would be about $7 million, Merchant said.
A level of 144 sworn officers, described by city leaders as "more optimal," along with the non-sworn officers and equipment costs, would be about $11.8 million, she said.
Councilman Gary Agopian suggested that the organization be built around voters' comfort level.
"We'll make the shoe fit, when we find out what the shoe size is, and then we'll make it work," he said. "I definitely want the whole loaf, but I want to know what loaf we can get, because I do want the measure to pass."
Former Mayor Donald Freitas spoke during public comment, saying that a nonpartisan civic group of residents known as the Friday Morning Breakfast Club, which he is part of, is crafting a ballot measure that would tax landlords and provide stable revenue.
"The reason is simple: Rentals are a business. For too long they have not been providing funding for this community," he said. "We believe it's long, long overdue."
The council said the group's proposal should be included in the survey.
Antioch police is staffed at 91 sworn officers, though about a dozen of those are on injury leave, Chief Allan Cantando said in February. Earlier this month, the department swore in three officers: two veteran police officers and the third a graduate of the academy.
The council has all but eliminated from consideration a parcel tax option, which would require a two-thirds majority vote.
The survey would be at the city's expense, Jakel said, estimating it would cost about $18,000 to $20,000.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.