Rural fire fee faces challenge

Bill calls for repeal of tax

By Karen Brainard

A group of legislators have authored a bill to repeal California’s rural fire fee.

The introduction of the bill, AB 1506, on Jan. 12 followed California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection’s approval of the annual fire prevention fee. It was the third time the fee went before the board since it was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in July 2011.

Local lawmakers are pushing for the repeal. Among co-authors of AB 1506 are District 77 Assemblyman Brian Jones and District 36 Sen. Joel Anderson, who both represent Ramona and have voiced their opposition to the fee.

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, whose 66th District includes Julian, and Assemblyman Paul Cook of the 65th District.

The law affects property owners living in state responsibility areas (SRAs) protected by Cal Fire, which include areas around Ramona and the 125 square miles of the Intermountain Fire Department.

Property owners will be charged $150 per habitable structure. A $35 credit will be applied if the property owner already pays into a local fire protection district, such as the Ramona Municipal Water District.

The fee is estimated to affect 73,000 homes in San Diego County.

After the forestry board’s recent action, District 2 County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents Ramona and has opposed the fee from the beginning, said in a prepared statement: “I question the motives of the fire board and the governor for trying to triple tax rural property owners who already pay for fire protection with property taxes and special assessments.

“There are fewer rural residents than urban residents so this is a politically convenient way for the state to try to pawn off its budget mess on people in rural areas,” she continued.

“The triple tax is unfair, legally questionable and does zip to address the state’s real problem: bureaucratic bloat.”

   
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