The Humboldt Beacon
The first round of billings for the controversial California "Fire Prevention Fee" has been completed, with more than 800,000 notices sent to mostly rural property owners in the state.
In August of this year, the state began mailing bills to residents who own property with a habitable structure on it in a State Responsibility Area (SRA) - 31 million acres where Cal Fire has primary response for the fire prevention and suppression.
Nearly 16,000 Humboldt County residents received fire prevention fee billing notices in the amount of $150, according to California Board of Equalization(BOE) statistics. As of Dec. 3, 28 residents had set up installment payment arrangements with the BOE.
More than 1,100 bills from the county have made it through the appeals process, with the majority of those resolved without any adjustment in payment amount; 750 fire prevention fee bills are currently under appeal, with the majority of those bills paid in full, pending the outcome of the appeal.
Statewide, the number of appeals filed totals more than 51,000.
BOE member George Runner has set up a website (www.calfirefee.com) to track the status of fire prevention fee bills that have been mailed.
Runner is opposed to the fire prevention fee and said, "This money will not pay for firefighters, fire trucks, fire hoses or water. The funds collected," he added, " are restricted to funding existing fire prevention efforts."
A new legislative proposal has been introduced in Sacramento to repeal the fire prevention fee. State senator Ted Gaines represents the 1st district, which includes nearby Shasta and Siskiyou counties, and has introduced Senate Bill 17.
SB 17 would reverse the decision to raise $84 million by charging rural property owners a fee for fire prevention services as part of the 2011-12 state budget. Gaines said, "I have been a leading critic of the fire ‘fee’ since its inception... and I’ve also strongly supported the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s class action lawsuit to overturn the fee."
Gaines vowed to fight the fire prevention fee "in every way possible and [I] encourage everyone who has gotten stuck paying this phony fee to get in the arena and fight, too."