ANTIOCH -- It appears that a pair of measures aimed at boosting the city's policing and code enforcement is headed to the November ballot.
The Antioch City Council directed staff this week to craft a ballot measure for a half-cent sales tax that, if approved, would be in place for 10 years. The proposed tax would have a seven-member oversight committee of Antioch residents and be subject to a yearly independent audit.
Antioch leaders also directed staff to work with a grass-roots citizens group on creating a ballot measure to tax local landlords. The amount being discussed for that fee is $240 a year, or $20 a month, for each rental unit.
"I don't want to do one and not the other," said Mayor Wade Harper, saying the landlord fees are a "loophole we have to repair."
"I think we have a community that can understand, especially if we make it clear and in a way that doesn't cause confusion," he said.
Councilman Gary Agopian added that the measures would "supplement and support" each other.
Agopian also suggested placing a cap on rental fees for dwellings such as large apartments and enacting a five-year freeze on fees for other businesses.
Though Antioch's general fund revenue has stabilized at around $34 million since falling from $47 million in 2007, it still faces a $3.6 million deficit. Police services comprise two-thirds of that budget.
About 40 percent of city staffing is vacant, and Antioch's goal of restoring those services would make expenditures climb quickly.
A survey of 400 registered voters conducted for the city last month by EMC Research found that 68 percent of those polled would vote yes or lean toward a yes vote on the half-cent tax.
Antioch voters in 2010 rejected a half-cent sales tax, ¿with only 48 percent ¿favoring Measure P. Before that measure was put on the ballot, 53 percent of those polled in a June 2010 survey by EMC supported such a tax.
Last month's survey said that only 35 percent of voters would support a landlord tax. However, several public speakers and a few council members questioned the results, saying the question's language was different from what is being proposed.
"That's not what I'm hearing. The people out there are telling me if there's no rental tax, I'm not voting for anything," said Bill Cook, a city crime prevention commissioner.
Hans Ho, a member of the Friday Morning Breakfast Club civic group, submitted a landlord fee initiative measure the group drafted to the city last week.
"I think it's a positive. Democracy is about compromises," Ho said following the council's decision. "Hopefully, we can have that dialogue and work together. We all have the same goal to make our city safer."
To get Antioch police back to its pre-recession level of 126 sworn officers, along with a full complement of non-sworn officers and additional fees for vehicles and safety equipment, would cost about $7 million, finance director Dawn Merchant said
Estimates by a city-hired consultant say a half-cent sales tax would likely raise about $4.7 million each year, Merchant said. The landlord fees would bring in about $2.6 million, Ho said.
It will cost Antioch about $204,000 to put one measure on the ballot and an additional $15,000 for the second, City Manager Jim Jakel said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.