The Antioch Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization representing businesses in Antioch and the surrounding communities. The Chamber helps to promote the community, advocate for business, to help businesses grow and to create economic development.
Where should the Antioch Chamber stand when it comes to a sales tax, and why is the Antioch Chamber of Commerce supporting a one-half cent sales tax increase for the city of Antioch?
Normally the chamber would be opposed to the addition of a local sales tax that would give our businesses a potential disadvantage when it comes to sales. Investigating that potential disadvantage with our neighbors would show that Antioch is currently at 8.5 percent and would increase to 9 percent. Pittsburg is at 9 percent, Brentwood is at 8.5 percent, Concord is at 9 percent and Walnut Creek is at 8.5 percent. The chamber would love Antioch's sales tax to remain at 8.5 percent or even go lower, if sales tax was the only determining factor as to where people shop.
There are other determining factors as to where customers shop and spend their money. The Antioch Chamber of Commerce is taking a position that at this time, the crime rate and perception of crime in the city of Antioch is a bigger detriment to business success than the increase in sales tax. There are customers that live in Antioch and work elsewhere that have changed patterns to shop close to work instead of close to home because of safety perceptions. Other residents are waiting for an increase in property values to be able to sell their homes and move elsewhere. The detriment to business that crime is having on our community, has reached a level that the chamber feels needs to be addressed with a quick increase in revenue to begin increasing our police force.
The chamber feels that the sales tax option is a short term solution to stimulate an increase in the police force. The city was seeking a 10-year sales tax and the chamber wanted to keep it to a five-year sales tax. The chamber worked with the city and compromised on a seven-year sales tax.
Many of our members would like to see this tax be a dedicated tax that could only be used by the city to pay for Police. The Chamber agrees that a dedicated tax would make sure the money was spent on our police force. In order to have a dedicated tax, the tax measure would need to pass by a 2/3 majority. The chamber feels that the 2/3 majority would be a percentage that would risk the passage of the measure. We feel that in these dire circumstances the need for the increased revenue is too important to risk the passage with an increased two-thirds threshold. The measure does include a Citizens' Oversight Committee which shall include seven Antioch residents who will review income and expenditures of the new sales tax revenue, and will be reported at a public meeting to the city council. It will be incumbent upon the voters and the chamber to ensure that revenues from this tax increase our ability to support our police force in a commensurate increase with the tax moneys.
The long term solution to the budget deficits will be the natural increase in revenue that comes with rising property values. Changes in 2012-2013 property values have already seen a 20 to 25 percent increase. It will take time for the county assessor to reassess property values up as the market turns, and so, the increased revenue for cities from increased property taxes will take time. Over the course of the next five to seven years the property tax revenue increase will increase and offset the need for the sales tax.
To make our town a safer place to live and to create a safer perception around our businesses, the chamber endorses a one-half cent sales tax increase for a period of seven years.
Dr. Sean Wright is CEO of Antioch Chamber of Commerce.