Fire fee bills being mailed to state’s rural residents

 

For the fifth time, Fire Prevention Fee bills are in the process of being mailed to more than 700,000 rural Californians, including those who reside in Three Rivers. Beginning Tuesday, March 1, and continuing through mid-June, about 10,000 bills per day will be sent in alphabetical order by county, starting with Alameda County and concluding with Yuba County.

The fee was approved by the State Legislature in 2011. The $150 fee is assessed on habitable structures on all properties within the State Responsibility Area even if the property owner pays taxes for fire protection and service to another entity. All Three Rivers properties are subject to the fee.

“Californians who live in rural areas already pay taxes to fund essential fire services,” said George Runner, a member of the state Board of Equalization and retired state senator. “It’s a shame this unfair and illegal tax continues to extract dollars from hardworking people. The Legislature and Governor should repeal it.”

Lawsuit pending— In August 2015, the Sacramento County Superior Court issued a ruling granting “class status” to a lawsuit filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association against the California Fire Prevention Fee. If the court hadn’t granted class status, taxpayers who would seek legal avenues to oppose the tax would have been required to take action individually.

It is expected that later this year, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will file a motion asking the court to rule in favor of fire fee payers. If the judge grants the motion, there will be no trial.

If this occurs, the state will most likely appeal the ruling. The case could potentially reach the Supreme Court.

To be a part of this lawsuit and receive a refund of fees paid if the plaintiffs prevail, one must fit the following description as stated in the Notice of Class Action:

Owners of property with habitable structures thereon, whose property has been designated part of the State Responsibility Area, who have paid the fire prevention fee imposed by the disputed ABX1-29 [Assembly Bill 29 of the First Extraordinary Session of 2011], and who completed and timely submitted to CAL FIRE a Petition for Redetermination disputing the validity of the fee.

How to file an appeal— Runner is encouraging property owners to pay the fire fee but to also file a timely protest, the Petition for Redetermination. 

To file a Petition for Redetermination, go to www.calfirefee.com/appeal. Three Rivers residents who oppose the tax will have grounds to appeal in the following category as stated on the website:

This bill is an unconstitutional tax. The California Constitution requires that new taxes be approved by 2/3rds of the membership of both houses of the Legislature. Because many homeowners will not see a direct benefit from their payment of the bill, this charge is a tax (and not having been properly approved by the Legislature) is illegal.  

Note: Cal-Fire will reject appeals filed on these grounds, but the appeal is vital to ensuring you remain eligible for a refund should the lawsuit prevail.

The Fire Prevention Fee bill must be paid and appealed within 30 days of the billing date (which is when the bill was sent, not when in was received). Late appeal petitions will not be accepted.

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