State approves new fire fees

State approves new fire fees

29 November 2011

published bywww.hidesertstar.com


USA — The new $150 fees property owners in several areas here will pay the state will go to fire prevention — not firefighting — under a new emergency regulation.

In a move condemned by some residents and county leaders, California’s Board of Forestry voted Nov. 9 to charge fire-prevention fees on structures within rural areas of the state, including homes and even some fire stations.

The emergency regulation calls for a $150 fee to be charged on all habitable structures in areas that are served by Cal Fire, the state’s fire-protection agency.

According to language in the emergency regulation, the fees will go toward fire prevention, not protection.

The news of the fees came just a few months after Cal Fire reduced staffing to comply with heavy cuts in California’s budget.

Property owners whose structures have multiple dwelling units will pay $150 for the first unit and $25 for each additional dwelling unit.

Those who live in areas served both by Cal Fire and a local fire authority are eligible for a $35 reduction on each habitable structure they are charged for.

Just how the board will use the fees it collects, remains to be seen.

“We’re still assessing exactly how we will use it, but it’s meant for fire prevention,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said by phone Tuesday.

Berlant said activities like reducing fuels like brush that could feed fires, creating defensible spaces around properties and educating the public about fire prevention could get funded by the fees.

“It’s to continue vital services that we already provide,” Berlant added.

He said Cal Fire is working with the Board of Equalization to discuss how to levy the fees, which have never been charged before.

It’s unclear when the fees will be implemented.

They are expected to generate $80 million in revenue, with $50 million being used for the agency’s budget and the remaining funds being used for fire prevention, according to a release from 3rd District Supervisor Neil Derry’s office.

County officials rail against idea

San Bernardino County Supervisors spoke out against the fees upon the Board of Forestry’s first introduction of the proposal.

Derry, whose jurisdiction includes the western Hi-Desert, alleged the fees were not fees at all, but a “brazen theft of funds from local taxpayers and county government.”

After the announcement of the fee approval, Derry lambasted the board’s actions.

“How do you levy a fire tax on a county fire station?” Derry asked in a news release from his office. “The arrogance of Sacramento is sickening and frankly, it is time for county governments to seriously reconsider their role as tax collection and servicing agents for a state that is schlepping its responsibilities onto us while at the same time robbing us blind.”

Property owners who believe they are being wrongfully charged can petition a bill within 30 days of receiving it.
 


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