Antioch City Council considering tax options to fund police
Staffing at 1995 levels
By James Ott
In the face of surging crime rates and stagnant city income levels, Antioch will look into a possible tax measure that would provide money for more police.
Antioch currently has 88 sworn officers and has funding for up to 102 of them, but according to city Police Chief Allan Cantando, the city needs to have at least 126 officers just to be at the staffing levels the city was at before a free-falling economy nearly bankrupt Antioch.
City council members have long agreed with Cantando that the city needs more police and at the February 26th Council meeting they discussed putting a tax measure up for vote to pay for them.
City Manager Jim Jakel said that the city council would need a tax to pay for the police because the city has seen, “massive declines in revenue,” including a decrease of over $13 million dollars since 2006-2007.
The issue of a tax is still at the very early stages of development, said Jakel and the city still has a lot of research to do before they can decide such things as the type of tax they want, the tax amount and how long the tax will remain in effect.
Making the process especially tricky is the fact that the city has to legally limit it’s involvement in the process while still gaining enough support to win the 2/3 vote needed to approve the item, added Jakel.
“We can’t run the campaign yet we’re intimately involved,” he said. “We can do things like very limited information gathering but can’t legally do ad campaigning.”
City council members agreed that they would need to wait until at least the November 2013 elections to place a tax measure on the ballot because they want time to do proper public outreach including community forums and public polls on the subject.
The city will look at three different tax possibilities: a sales tax, a parcel tax or a business tax. The sales tax would likely be either a quarter, half or full cent sales tax, while the parcel tax numbers are yet to be determined, according to Jakel.
Mayor Wade Harper suggested that one idea for the business tax could be to tax renters in the city.
“As far as the business license tax – there are people that own several different homes in Antioch and they’re basically running it as a business and they’re not paying a tax so we need to address that,” said Harper.
Charging $200 to $250 annually to the owners of the 11,000 plus rental properties in the city has been suggested by the public.
Jakel said that he will put together estimates for each of the three tax possibilities, including a low, medium and high tax amount as well as an estimate of how much each different tax measure might generate.
Council member Gary Agopian said that he liked the half-cent sales tax measure that was recently passed by Pittsburg and would like Antioch to take a look at it as a possible model for tax income.
“I like the Pittsburg model,” said Agopian. “A half cent sales tax for five years, then it decreases to a quarter cent sales tax for the final five years and then it ends. What would that generate for us?”
Regardless of the type of tax the city decides on, all members of the council agreed that they need a poll to find out what the citizens want and to judge the public’s receptiveness for the possible tax measures.
“I want to hear from the average voter that doesn’t necessarily come to council meetings,” said council member Monica Wilson.
Because the city cannot legally campaign for such a measure, it is very important that the city make sure they have the support of Antioch voters before they spend time and money to place a tax on the ballot, said council.
“We need broad community support,” said Agopian. “Does labor support it, does business support it, does the chamber [of commerce], support it, does the average citizen support it?”
The cost of the election Jakel said would be upwards of $250,000, not including research, polling and possibly hiring an outside firm to help with that information gathering.
City staff will gather information, make cost estimates and meet with City Council on March 28 to discuss the tax measure and try to iron out some of the many issues it faces.