Antioch sales tax proposal under scrutiny

July 27, 2010 11:49:36 PM PDT
A plan to raise the sales tax in the city of Antioch to one of the highest in the state was met with fierce opposition. The City Council approved a proposal to let voters decide on a half cent increase.

Bernie Cabrera was worried about the plan to raise sales tax in Antioch. As it is now, Cabrera's Queen B Quilt Shop is one of the few downtown businesses bustling with customers.

Next door there are two vacant store fronts. That's a reflection of a bad economy made worse by the local foreclosure crisis.

Now, business owners fear a City Council plan to put a half cent sales tax increase on the November ballot will push away their remaining customers.

"It's going to increase the actual cost the customer is going to pay. I mean, bottom line," Cabrera said.

But Council Member Martha Parsons say the sales tax may be the only way to avoid further cuts to city services, like police.

"We've already lost 25 percent of our taxable revenue to the city. We've had to lay off 41 people," she said.

As it is, the city gets less than a penny of the current 9.25 percent sales tax. Advocates of the half cent increase claim all the money would go to essential services.

Critics say the price is too high.

"This is a city that's trying to balance their budget on the backs of the people," Kris Hunt from the Contra Costa Taxpayers association said.

If voters approve this measure in November, at 9.75 percent Antioch would then have the highest sales tax in all of East Contra Costa County.

"On a larger purchase, having an extra tax, it sends people elsewhere to shop and that will only hurt the downtown area," shopper Jill Szalaj said.

"If I'm buying a tube of toothpaste, it's going to cost me two extra cents," Parsons said. "Am I going to go to another city for two cents? It just doesn't make sense."

If approved by a majority of voters in November, the new tax would stay in effect for eight years.


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