Contentious rural fire tax strips Cal Fire of money, says Berlant

By Karen Brainard

A new California law that will impose a $150 annual fire fee for many residents living in rural areas of the state, would impact the majority of property owners served by the Intermountain Fire and Rescue Department, said an Intermountain board member.

The fee will be the focus of a special session for the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection on Aug. 22.

A spokesman for Cal Fire said the law would strip money from fire protection and use the fees for fire prevention. Some homeowners in fire protection districts could pay overlapping fire fees and there are questions surrounding the $150 fee per “habitable” structure on properties.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed ABX1 29 into law on July 7. The law targets homeowners who live in wildland areas known as state responsibility areas (SRA), protected by Cal Fire.

According to Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant, there are homeowners within the boundaries of the Ramona Municipal Water District’s Fire Department who could pay overlapping fees because they are also in an SRA. No details on such affected areas were available.

Ron Peterka, an 18-year-board member of the Intermountain Fire Department, said the new bill would affect almost all of the property owners in the 125 square miles served by the department, which includes portions of the east end of Ramona to Santa Ysabel.

The way the bill was written, Peterka said, a homeowner with more than one habitable dwelling on his property would be charged $150 per dwelling. That could include a cabin or trailer.

The law also states that the estimated $200 million raised from the fee would go solely toward fire prevention, he said.

“The consensus is this is crazy,” said Peterka. “I’m not against the fee if the fee was for fire protection.”

Intermountain is a volunteer fire department that receives funding from the county and from donations, he said.

Intermountain Fire and Rescue Department has not taken a stand on the fee, said Peterka.

The law was intended to raise $200 million annually and $50 million from the remainder of this year for fire prevention, said Berlant.

But, he said, there is a swap. Cal Fire’s funds come from the state’s general budget so the amount taken in from the fire fees would be substracted from Cal Fire’s budget.

The fire fee bills will be issued by the state Board of Equalization. Once the bills are sent, Peterka said property owners will have 30 days to pay and, if late, will be penalized at 20 percent per month.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors opposes the fee

Related posts:

  1. Governor signs fire tax bill for rural areas
  2. Supervisors oppose rural fire tax, Cal Fire cuts
  3. Parcel tax unfair to rural property owners, says Jacob
  4. Bill to establish fire tax awaits governor’s action
  5. County seeks governor’s order for full CalFire staffing for fire season

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Posted by Karen Brainard on Aug 18 2011. Filed under Government, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Contentious rural fire tax strips Cal Fire of money, says Berlant”

  1. Doug

    Where will this end? I can see this as a way to go around prop 13.. No doubt, the sire system needs funds, but this is not where it should come from. As in many cases, does anybody really know how our taxes are spent. I dont think so. How often do we get to see a budget for govt. spending? I'm sure that there are ways to raise money for the firemen on the ground and in the air. Talk to retired fireman, and a lot will brag about the amount of their retirement. Again I have no problem, but dont you think that some of the $100,000.00 plus people could find other means. Lots of firemen have worked outside jobs and receive social secutity as well as fireman retirement. Somehow, that does't seem right.

  2. dave

    I'm not a person of fanacy words, so plain and simple. this is extortion by gov jerry brown, no matter how you look at it. I will not pay this now or in the the future. if they need money start with pay cuts on all state employees starting with the gov him self.

  3. Steve

    The MOST COSTLY fire in California history in terms of property loss and suppression costs occurred during the recent Oakland Hills fire. None, I repeat, N O N E of those Oakland Hills residents were included in this Illegal Fire Tax.

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