A measure to increase the sales tax rate in Hercules by a half cent on the dollar won handily Tuesday, needing only a simple majority of yes votes but collecting better than two-thirds.

With all 13 precincts reporting, the vote count was 2,222, or 70.1 percent, for Measure O and 947, or 29.9 percent, against.

Measure O is expected to raise about $500,000 a year; the extra sales tax will end after four years.

As a general tax, it required a majority vote; a special tax would have required two-thirds approval. Officials said the proceeds of Measure O could be used to beef up police services, earthquake preparedness, after-school programs, senior services and park maintenance.

The city work force has shrunk by more than 40 percent in two years.

A consultant had recommended waiting until November to put a tax measure on the ballot. Mayor Dan Romero said Tuesday's vote "shows that the council had the pulse of the voters more so than the paid consultants."

Earlier this year, the City Council declared a fiscal emergency.

"Why declare a fiscal emergency and then wait six months?" Romero said.

The city has struggled to reduce a general fund deficit estimated at just over $2 million in a first draft of a fiscal 2012-13 budget. A second draft due to be unveiled at a special City Council meeting on Wednesday reduces the estimated deficit to about $1.5 million on the strength of a new round of proposed cuts.

Measure O will bring the total sales tax in Hercules to 8.75 cents on the dollar.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760.