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Antioch: Parcel Tax to Staff Police May Hit November Ballot

The City of Antioch appears to be considering a citywide parcel tax on the November ballot to help increase its police force. A survey is current asking residents whether they would support a parcel tax and at what rate.

According to the survey, Antioch is looking at a parcel tax as low as $4.51 per month ($54 annually) to as high as $13.68 per month ($165 annually) with different levels of service attached to each figure.

Here is the introduction prior to the seven questions:

Antioch Police Department currently has 94 sworn officers and one recently hired code enforcer. There are no unsworn officers (work in the office, write crime reports, take reports, work in the jails, etc). There are only about 6-8 patrol officers on duty on any given shift. Antioch does not have its own assistant DA to prosecute Antioch specific crimes.

A proposition for a parcel tax to increase the police force in Antioch could possibly be added to the November ballot. The parcel tax will last 7 years and can only be used for expanding the police department – nothing else.

The police department will have to publish its hiring progress every six months. The funds would have community oversight. The funds cannot be used for salary or wage increases. The goal would be to expand the police force over the course of 2-3 years, to coincide the completion of the Highway 4 and/or BART expansions.

The purpose of this brief survey is to determine whether such a proposition can pass with the voters. Because the proposition is dedicated to a single purpose (vs. being a “general use” proposition), it can only pass with a 2/3 majority. In contrast, general use propositions only need a 51% majority.

According to the survey, here is what you get at each price point:

  • $165 annual: 30 more sworn uniformed officers, 20 more unsworn officers (traffic, jail, etc), 5 more code enforcers (trash, abandoned properties, squatters, etc), 1 assistant DA dedicated to prosecuting only Antioch crimes. This would approximately double the number of patrol officers on duty at any given time.
  • $109 annual: approximately 20 more sworn uniformed officers, 12 more unsworn officers (traffic, jail, etc.), 3 more code enforcers (trash, abandoned properties, squatters, etc.). No assistant DA.
  • $54 annual:  for: approximately 10 more sworn uniformed officers, 6 more unsworn officers (traffic, jail, etc), 1 more code enforcer (trash, abandoned properties, squatters, etc). No assistant DA.

After reading the information, my instinct (maybe I am wrong)  is telling me this is coming from an outside group gathering information in order to push the City to move forward with this proposed parcel tax idea to fund additional police force.  I say this because the information seems like a copy and paste job which included several misspellings (I’ve corrected in this post).

Also, there is no mention of how much revenue would actually be generated to back up the cost of hiring officers. While Antioch may be a town of 102,000, they don’t have 102,000 parcels.  My best guess is this raises around $5 million annually for a period of 7 years when the tax sunsets.

I can understand the sales job being done to provide documentation that supports a parcel tax, but I’d urge whoever is doing this survey to be more honest. In doing simple math, it appears their numbers are misleading based on what little information I have.

  • 10 officers = 400 hours available per week.
  • 168 hours in a week for 24/7 coverage
  • You’re getting 2.5 officers for that. Or getting 5 officers for the 20 sworn option.  That’s even oversimplifying because it doesn’t account for vacation/sick leave.
  • It appears the people are looking at this survey thinking 10 officers on the streets on any given day.
  • Locked in wages is problematic too. You’re saying no COLA and possibility of existing officers getting increases in future years, but the ones funded with this won’t?

There is no doubt Antioch needs more police on the streets and additional office support. According to a study in 2010, Antioch has 1.16 police officers per 1,000 people vs. California average of 3.08.

There is no doubt people of Antioch get what they pay for or don’t pay for, but there are many unanswered questions that need to be answered. This appears to be a very small group making this push and it’s been very tight lipped—heck I have a dozen questions myself.

The other side of this parcel tax is they are competing with a lot of other measures already from the Governors Tax Increase to Contra Costa County Fire (CONFIRE) who is likely headed for a ballot measure of around $75. If Antioch puts this on the ballot, it likely kills the CONFIRE attempt as well as the police—it’s just too many tax increases and will overload the public.

If Antioch does decide to move forward, it will need to do so quickly to move from the survey stage to public discussion, to ensuring they meet the deadline to get it on the November ballot.

At first glance, I think this will be a slam dunk in the survey stage, but asking for a 2/3 to support it is another story. When the actual facts and figures of police salary and benefits come out (including a recent pay raise), this is a very difficult sales job.

While I’d support it, the reality is this will cost Antioch a nice chunk of money to run a campaign with poor odds of actually passing.

Survey can be found at:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Q9FPQHC

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5 Responses »

  1. Mike, I don’t think Antioch residents would vote on CONFIRE since we have a city fire department, so I don’t see a conflict. This may be just a survey/study but I’m glad it’s being addressed. Measure P defeat a few years ago was a huge mistake. It takes more than an hour to respond to an alarm/break in in South East Antioch as I’ve experience. My bigger concern, however, is the safety of our high school students. Violence is out of control at DVHS and, some think, at AHS as well. Also, EAST CCC is connected–crime in Antioch, Brentwood and Oakley flows all directions.

    • This information is taken directly off their front page of their website. Cities serviced under CONFIRE include:

      City of Antioch
      City of Clayton
      City of Concord
      City of Lafayette
      City of Martinez
      City of Pittsburg
      City of Pleasant Hill
      City of San Pablo
      City of Walnut Creek

  2. Mike, thanks for pointing out that Antioch does not have its own fire department. The former Riverview Fire Department was consolidated with Confire decades ago.

    Since my answering machine picks up our home telephone, I wasn’t included in the survey.

    But if you look at the revised MOU with the APOA, there is no way that 2/3rds of Antioch voters are going to approve this proposed parcel tax.

    The very small group working on this has not shared anything with anyone outside of their group.

    If it truly had residents support, this group would have submitted an initiative to the city attorney for review and summary for petition circulation to gather the necessary number of signatures to get on the ballot. But no, they are going to attempt to get the city council to put it on the ballot which is the wrong way to go.

  3. If they are thinking this could go on the November ballot I’m afraid they are already operating under false impressions. The deadline for filing for a November ballot is only about 30 days out. To get this on a city council agenda and hashed out(which usually takes months as a process) means next June is more realistic. That’s assuming there is public sentiment for it and political will within the council. I’m not sure either of these two exist in sufficient numbers to move it forward.

    If it’s a grass roots effort, that’s a good place to start. Drive it from the residents so the politicians don’t have to guess on the public opinion. Just don’t bring 200 responses for a city of 100k and expect that to be taken as definitive consensus.

    Here’s the “gotcha” in these types of situations: Nothing in this measure will be able to keep the council from reducing the PD budget from the general fund by an equivalent amount during tough times. You could lose more “base service” officers and these newly acquired ones are simply backfilling those positions that could be cut in the future.

    So thinking this is a simple fix is probably a bit too optimistic.

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