Antioch Council to pursue two tax measures for November ballot

By James Ott

Come November Antioch voters might have their choice of no less than two measures that aim to hire more police and code enforcement officers to help curb crime in the city.

At their May 14 meeting city council members voted to introduce a half cent sales tax measure to the upcoming ballot after a survey of 400 Antioch voters showed that a majority of those polled were very concerned about crime in the city and would support such a measure to fix the problem.

The council also directed staff members to work with a citizens group to place a second tax measure on the ballot that has seen a lot of support from Antioch residents recently. The measure would tax local landlords about $240 a year for their rentals and the money would also go to help police and code enforcement agencies in the city.

I’d say we need to put both [tax measures] on the ballot,” said Mayor Wade Harper.

The council leaned toward placing both measures on the ballot despite survey conductors EMC Research suggesting that it might be confusing to voters if there are two measures aimed at accomplishing the same goal on the same ballot.

In our experience having too many measures that are trying to accomplish the same thing can be confusing to the voters,” said EMC Research Consultant Ruth Bernstein. “I can’t say it as a guarantee…but they might think rather ‘why are they talking about the technicalities [of two measures] instead of focusing on the solution?’”

Bernstein also cited her company’s survey which showed that while a very strong 67 percent of voters would vote yes or are leaning toward voting yes on the half cent sales tax measure only 35 percent felt the same way about the proposed rental tax measure.

City council members like Gary Agopian however thought that the poll focused too much on the half cent sales tax measure and didn’t really reflect the large amount of support he has seen growing for the rental tax measure.

I’m a little bit concerned that we didn’t dig a little deeper on the business license [rental tax measure],” said Agopian. “In the survey we got a lot of different looks at the half cent sales tax side yet here we have just a couple of different general questions [about the rental tax] and no specific numbers or why it would be valuable.”

Despite what the survey said, several citizens at the meeting showed up to voice their support for the rental tax measure, many of them participants in the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club – members of which presented their own ballot measure to the city during the meeting and are going out to collect signatures of support.

One of those club members is former Antioch mayor Don Freitas who said that there is a large amount of support for the rental tax measure among Antioch voters and that the survey’s questions were confusing, leading to misinformation and skewed results about the subject.

Freitas like many other supporters of the rental tax prefer to call it a “business tax” because they see rental properties as a business that is currently making revenue in the city tax free.

In the end the council showed some faith in both measures the half cent sales tax measure on the ballot and directed staff to help the Friday Morning Breakfast Club with their ballot proposal and their signature gathering.

There was some hope at the meeting that if they were given enough clear information perhaps Antioch residents would vote for both measures and provide sorely needed revenue to a city that facing a $3.6 million dollar deficit and a $13 million drop in their general fund revenues over the last five years and has lost 40 percent of their staff as a result. City Manager Jim Jakel calculated that Antioch would need $11.3 million in additional moneys every year for the city to get back to pre-recession service levels for its citizens.

The half-cent sales tax is expected to generate about $3.8 million a year while rough estimates for the rental tax peg it at $2.6 to $2.8 million dollars a year.

The good news for both ballot measures is that research seems to show that Antioch residents are very concerned about public safety and a lack of money at the city and seem to be willing to pony up the funds if they believe it will help those areas of concern.

EMC Research’s survey showed that 65 percent of residents feel that crime, drugs, violence and a lack of police are the biggest areas of concern in the city – the very two areas that both ballot measures seek to remedy.

We’re not seeing what we see in other cities where jobs and the economy are the main concern,” said Bernstein. “Overwhelmingly it’s crime and lack of police that bother Antioch residents and we see a willingness to put their money where their mouth is.”

One Comment to “Antioch Council to pursue two tax measures for November ballot”

  1. Tina Arteaga says:

    Since when does 400 people
    constitute a majority in Antioch ?
    Instead of more taxes and fees, why doesn’t the Antioch City Council do as the rest of us have h ad to do , tighten our belts . learn to do with what we hav
    why don’t they cut out some of their perks , for employees that work what two
    days a week and live in Antioch . What abo ut overwriting a governor’s order to go ahead and up the funding for their pensions .

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