825,000 California Residents to Pay $150 Fire Prevention Fee

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The California State Board of Equalization has released its initial fire prevention fee assessment mailing dates. Affected residents in 14 counties will receive their bills in August and September. Residents in other counties receive their fee bills later.

Which counties will receive the first bills?

Mailings begin Aug. 13 and initially target residents in the counties of Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Imperial and Inyo.

How many homeowners in total have to pay the $150 fee?

The California Fire Prevention Fee site identifies owners of 825,000 habitable structures. These homeowners must pay fees, whether the structure is a single family home, a mobile home, an apartment building or a condominium. It is noteworthy that owners of apartment buildings only pay $150 per structure, whereas owners of condominiums pay $150 per unit.

Why do only some real property owners have to pay the $150 fee?

The State of California only charges this fee to residents who choose to live in forest areas and rangeland that fall within the "state responsibility area" (SRA). Residents living in areas that are federally owned -- or situated within city boundaries -- do not have to pay the fee.

What does the California government intend to do with the money they collect from this assessment?

Brush clearance within SRA boundaries, fire prevention education as well as forest health improvement, are just a few of the items that the fee will fund.

Is this fee fair?

As noted by the Press Democrat, the fire chiefs associations of Sonoma and Marin counties oppose the $150 fee. While it makes up for the $80 million cut to Cal Fire, it unduly burdens residents who must already pay a rural fire protection district fee. "This is an additional tax for fire services that doesn't support the day-to-day operations of the fire districts," the Sonoma County fire chief said.

"As a rural Californian, I'm deeply troubled that the governor is rolling out his fire tax on rural residents under the false banner of providing fire protection," assembly member Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) told the Los Angeles Times.

Do California residents living within SRA boundary lines have to pay this fee each year, starting in 2012?

It is unclear if the $150 fee amount will remain the same. As noted by Sacramento Bee last year, the initial $150 fee demand is a temporary measure. A board will decide on a permanent fee structure after the initial collection.

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles-area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.

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