Lawsuit against state fee moves forward
Ramona residents who are required to pay the state fire fee can expect to receive their fiscal year 2012-13 bills in late September or early October, according to the state Board of Equalization.
The fee affects properties within State Responsibility Areas (SRAs) where the state is financially responsible to prevent and fight wildland fires. The $150 per habitable structure fee, discounted to $115 for properties within the Ramona Municipal Water District Fire Department boundaries, affected approximately 11,000 structures in the community last year, said Cal Fire.
A judge in Sacramento Superior Court recently allowed a lawsuit filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) against the state to move forward. The lawsuit claims the fee is an illegal tax.
According to HJTA, the state said the association could not sue as a class action and wanted four of the 14 plaintiffs to be dismissed because those plaintiffs sought refunds for everyone who paid the fee, not just those who filed appeals with Cal Fire.
HJTA’s director of legal affairs urged the judge to allow the case to move forward, arguing that if the state acted illegally, it should not be rewarded by keeping the fees of over 800,000 affected Californians.
“The judge ruled in our favor that we can sue as a class action and did not disqualify any of our plaintiffs,” reads a statement from the association. “Unfortunately for now, the judge has also said that if the case is ultimately decided in our favor, taxpayers will only be able to receive refunds if they filed a timely appeal with Cal Fire.”
The association noted that this is just the beginning of a long legal process.
More information is at HJTA.org under the Fire Protest banner.