Antioch Council considers citizens proposed residential landlord rental tax, again
By John Crowder
At the May 13 meeting of the Antioch City Council, city staff asked for direction from the Council with respect to a citizen’s proposal for the implementation of a residential landlord rental tax. City Manager Steven Duran explained that the idea for the tax was put forward over a year ago, and an initiative proposal was now gathering signatures in support of the idea.
A group known as the Friday Morning Breakfast Club (FMBC) is currently spearheading the signature gathering effort in support of the tax. FMBC was founded in February, 2009, by three local political figures, Arne Simonsen (currently Antioch City Clerk), Don Freitas (former Mayor of Antioch), and Gary Gilbert. According to Simonsen, FMBC was founded as a kind of “think tank,” made up of people from all different political parties and ethnicity’s, but who could “disagree but not become disagreeable.” Their focus, was to consider “what is best for Antioch.” Since its inception, the group has grown to approximately sixty members, with about twenty showing up at any given meeting. Former Mayor Freitas usually chairs the meetings, which typically involve listening to invited speakers followed by open discussion of issues.
Several members of the FMBC came forward during Tuesday’s Council meeting in order to express support for a Rental Tax. Freitas spoke first, describing FMBC as a group of “civic-minded individuals.” He stated that they wanted to see a “stable, secure, source of revenue” for the city, and noted that Measure C is a temporary measure. “Rental units are a business,” he went on to say, “we always want to treat business in a fair and equitable manner.” He further commented that he thought it was wrong that those operating this type of business did not contribute financially to the city, and that the Rental Tax proposal would correct that inequity. “Nobody likes taxes and assessments, but everybody wants municipal services provided,” he continued.
Larry Harrison, a 45-year resident of Antioch spoke following Freitas. He told the Council that even though gathering signatures was, “out of his comfort zone,” as a consulting civil engineer, he considered the Rental Tax important enough for him to put forth effort to see it placed on the ballot in November.
Marty Fernandez then spoke in support of the measure, noting that he, also, had been out getting people to sign the petition for the Rental Tax. Marie Livingston noted that there were about 12,000 rental units in Antioch, that the fee would generate approximately $2.7 million in revenue, and that rental units in town generated a greater requirement for police services. Local real estate broker, Mark Jordan, said that, even though he owns rental property in Antioch, he supports the Rental Tax. He said that, as an Antioch resident, he was willing to pay more out of basic fairness.
After several others also spoke in favor of the Rental Tax, Council members commented on the issue. All spoke in support of the idea. Harper stated that he had, “made a commitment to support the tax.” Council Member Monica Wilson said, in reference to the idea being brought forth previously, “I supported it then, I support it now.” The rest of the Council, Rocha, Tiscareno and Agopian also expressed support.
Following their discussion, the Council voted 5-0 to direct the city manager to continue discussions with stakeholder groups, including FMBC, and to return with a staff recommendation for a tax initiative at the council’s next meeting on May 27th.
Another potential tax change, presented by Duran, was to increase the Business License minimum tax from $25 to $100. Harper asked Duran if it would make passage of a measure more difficult by putting more than one thing on the ballot. “Yes,” he said, but noted that he did not think the increase was too substantial, given that the $25 fee had been established in the 1940’s. The staff report provided to the Council indicated that both Brentwood and Oakley already had minimum business license taxes of $100 in place.