ANTIOCH -- Voters here may be asked this November if they are willing to pay to boost the city's short-staffed police department. But before posing that question, Antioch leaders want to have a firm grasp on the facts.

The City Council asked this week for more information about three possible ways to increase revenue: a sales tax, a property tax or a tax on certain businesses, namely landlords.

The council also requested some sort of residential poll be conducted.

"Public opinion is very important to me. The purpose of this is we want to have something that's a success," Councilman Tony Tiscareno said, noting that the price tag for placing a measure on the ballot would be a little more than $250,000.

"If we are going to do something like this, we have to have buy-in from the public."

Antioch is in what Councilman Gary Agopian called a "crime emergency." The city has experienced double-digit increases in its crime rate percentages the past two years, while the number of arrests continues to drop.

"If we do nothing, we are giving our city a death sentence," Agopian said.

The department is staffed at 88 sworn officers, not including a dozen or so on injury leave, Chief Allan Cantando said at Saturday's Coffee with the Cops meeting.

City staff will determine "high, medium and low" price ranges for a sales tax, property tax and business license tax, along with a cost analysis for how much it would cost to return the city to its pre-recession level of 126 sworn officers or a "more optimal" level of 144 officers, City Manager Jim Jakel said.

Agopian's suggestion for a business license tax included freezing license payments from existing businesses for five years, while taxing landlords who own more than one residential property in the city.

Antioch will also examine data from the League of California Cities on how various ballot measures fared in 2012, Jakel said. Upon council request, it will also see if Pittsburg and Concord -- neighboring cities whose voters recently passed half-cent sales tax measures -- have lost any businesses in the wake of the election.

Council members said it is important that any tax measure have strict accountability standards, including a citizen's oversight committee. They also indicated that it should have a sunset provision.

Antioch voters in 2010 defeated a half-cent sales tax ballot measure aimed at restoring city services, including police staffing and code enforcement, as 52 percent voted against it. It needed a simple majority to pass.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

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