ANTIOCH -- Hoping to garner support for a likely November election, leaders here slightly scaled back a pair of companion ballot measures aimed at boosting policing and code enforcement.
To appease the business community, the City Council agreed this week to cut the duration of a crafted half-cent sales tax measure from 10 years to seven years. The proposed tax would still have a seven-member oversight committee of Antioch residents and be subject to a yearly independent audit.
"(The council) has been talking about compromise. I'm willing to take this opportunity to unify this entire community behind this ballot measure," Mayor Wade Harper said.
Antioch leaders also directed staff Tuesday to craft a ballot proposal to tax local landlords $240 a year, or $20 a month, for each rental unit for one to 25 units. The sliding scale adopted by the council would set a fee of $120 per unit for units 25 to 50, $75 for 51 to 150 and $50 per unit for any over 150.
The compromise was based off discussions between the Friday Morning Breakfast Club grass-roots civic group and city staff. The group submitted a plan to the city earlier this month.
"Frankly, I'm quite ecstatic, but there's still a long road ahead of us," said Hans Ho, the group member that filed the petition. "I'm delighted that we're working together. That will make for a much better campaign."
"I think it's very clean, easy to enforce and easy to understand," Councilman Gary Agopian said. "From a concept standpoint, for this particular business closing the loophole is the right thing to do."
Not everyone, however, agreed with the council's decision.
Theresa Karr, executive director of the Contra Costa chapter of the California Apartment Association, spoke in opposition on behalf of her group's members in Antioch. The group hadn't spoken up until now because, though there had been some complaints by residents, there was no "threat" of a new fee until recently, she said.
Antioch has not established any clarity or process in identifying and collecting existing business license taxes for income via renting property, Karr said. Further, creating a "new" business license tax "to be imposed on one business for general services that will benefit the entire city is unmerited and may invite legal challenge," she wrote in a letter to the city Tuesday.
Karr reiterated that the group supports the sales tax proposal.
The Antioch Chamber of Commerce also endorses the sales tax for seven years. Chamber Chief Executive Officer Sean Wright told the council Tuesday that it would remain neutral if it moved forward with a 10-year plan.
The chamber campaigned against Measure P, a half cent sales tax that failed in 2010.
It would cost about $7 million 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.
City estimates say a half-cent sales tax would likely raise about $4.7 million each year, while Ho says the landlord fees would bring in about $2 million.
It will cost Antioch about $204,000 to put one measure on the ballot and an additional $15,000 for the second.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.