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OPINION: Stand Up Against New Fire 'Tax'

Look out if you do nothing.

By now most homeowners living outside local city limits have received this year's new $115 California Fire Prevention Service Fee bill. The billing was sent out over the last couple of weeks and was issued by the State Board of Equalization on behalf of Cal Fire.

Though it is called a fee, it is nothing more that another tax applied to only about 825,000 property owners or 2 percent of the population of California. 

there is greater fire danger. This law was passed as an emergency measure so it could become effective for the 2011-12 tax year. It provides immediate revenue to the state before we see any benefits.

Of course you would expect the immediate benefit to be greater fire protection for those being taxed, but that is not so. These taxes will go fund environmental concerns like erosion control, grants for educating the public on fire dangers, and other fire preventative concerns in hazard areas, but not for fighting fires.

It is understandable for a fee or tax -- whatever it’s considered – to be imposed if the condition of a property is a fire hazard, but that is not so with this law. An owner can consciously clear brush and landscape with fire-resistant plants, but the fee is still assessed. Under our Riverside County ordinances, the county’s weed abatement program clears hazards and bills the property owner, so we have two laws doing the same thing. Also, you can live within eyesight of a fire station – and get far better response times than some city dwellers -- but the fee is still assessed.

What has happened since the fee was signed into law in July 2011? Lawsuits have been filed like the one by the Humboldt County Fire Chief’s Association, which contends the fee is a duplication of taxes already assessed. Or another lawsuit filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association that argues the tax is in violation of the Jarvis Tax Act. The lawsuits will progress at a snail’s pace and, because the law only effects 2 percent of California’s total population, there’s little outcry.

Perhaps for those who are faced with the bill, an easy revolt could be to just vote against Gov. Brown’s plea to voters for another tax increase under Proposition 30.  Another avenue could be to file a Petition for Redetermination because you’re already being taxed for fire protection. Such a petition form can be obtained at http://www.firepreventionfee.org and only costs the price of postage.

This is not something where we should say, “What the heck, it’s only $150.” The law allows the amount to be increased annually, so look out if you do nothing. --Raymond Schmidt

Connie Lingus November 04, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Taxation without representation? Kinda obvious where this is gonna lead. Mail your petition! Soon you won't be able to live in the country and isn't that Their Goal?
Laura Stansfield November 04, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Not to mention, we have absolutely NO guarantees that they are using this revenue like they say they are...whatever it is supposedly being used for.....what a bunch of crooks!
TVOR November 04, 2012 at 03:46 PM
You'd think they could get the revenue they need by assessing fines on properties that do not meet the brush clearance requirements. In any case we need to flush out the whole of the state leadership and get rid of the corruption and waste that has bankrupted our state and put us in the red by billions of pesos, um I mean dollars.
Vince November 04, 2012 at 03:51 PM
C'mon....how ya think they's ta gonna pay for all the new perks bestowed upon Illegal Beaner's? This is just part of the new "YOUR CASH for Illegal Beaner Votes Program" ol' Moonbeam put together...Sheesh... I think they oughta just confiscate everybody's money and property, and git 'er done, once and for all.
Michelle Randall November 04, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Personally, I got my Fire Fee bill and paid it without a bunch of whining around about it. I'm not rich, but I am neither a racist nor do I have that good old welfare attitude that seems to be ingrained in so many people now days. Our son died, burned to death on a bulldozer in the Dawson Canyon Fire in 1980 and I am well aware of the importance of supporting CalFire during this time of across the board financial cuts. We have 12 acres surrounded by two Reserves. I've cleared not only my property, but about 50' of my neighbors properties around our borders. Two years ago, we had a fire that burned right down to the clearance around my property line. CalFire had a crew at every home in my neighborhood in record time. We didn't need them because it was a rare, windless day. Had the wind blown, all bets would have been off. This year, illegal shooters have caused two fires in the Estelle Mtn. Reserve within sight of my house. CalFire was there with their crews and helicopter and just put them both out within an hour. I'll guarantee I've gotten my piddly $115.00 worth of fire protection. I'm proud that as an American I live in a country where I can own a home, where I have the services of CalFire, and where I have the opportunity to give back.
Sandra P November 04, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Stop new taxes and start using the damn money you already have wisely!!! I have to, the government should as well.
The Teller of Truth November 04, 2012 at 08:35 PM
@Michelle, it sounds like you're a very proud and responsible homeowner. (Sorry to learn of the death of your son. I know that must have been devastating.) What the other posters here are grumbling about is more like we feel that we've already paid enough in taxes to have this fine service already covered for us. No one is disputing this fine service as much as we are stating our disappointment in the allocation of our extremely high taxes. You don't really have to be racist to see all the money that our state is freely giving away to all the illegals that have migrated here. Its merely an observation & sadly a reality. I wish you were a neighbor of mine because you sound extremely nice & giving. That is kinda rare now a days! Take good care!
DeWayne Hillman III November 04, 2012 at 09:04 PM
This is another shameless example of the double dipping government. If anyone believes this money will be used for fire protection or to improve the conditions for fire fighters , I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you. As usual there will be no accountability for these funds, if you dont believe that then what has the government done with the taxes you already pay for fire protection?? STOP THE ENTITLEMENTS, STOP THE SPENDING, Dont forecast deficits on money you are planning to spend, DONT SPEND IT !!!!
Antonio November 05, 2012 at 03:53 AM
This fee is one of the best pieces of public policy I have seen. The fee is modest and only applies to homeowners who live in high fire areas and who cost the State of California more for firefighting than the rest of the homeowners who live in lower fire danger areas. Homes in urban areas don't need the arial and other high cost fire fighting efforts. This is a very reasonable fee. I support it. Its sad that some politicians such as K. Jeffries chooses to pander to the small minds and wackos for votes instead of doing the right (and courageous) thing and support this sensible fee.
Antonio November 05, 2012 at 03:56 AM
You make your statements with such conviction with obviously little knowledge: what courage. What evidence do you have that the State doesn't use the money wisely?
Rick Jones November 05, 2012 at 05:54 AM
The state is broken, the fees will never make it to firefighters. Stations will keep closing and firefighters will continue to get laid off. All the while Jerry Brown and those in Sacramento will keep their pension and benefit plans as fat as ever.
Antonio November 05, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Oh, I see you have extensive experience with the State budget to make such statements, Or do you just make this stuff up? You sound fatalistic. Do you think that is fashionable? Do the hard work and go online and review the budget, so you know what your talking about, Otherwise your not helping solve the problem with your outlandish statements.
SA November 05, 2012 at 05:41 PM
All I have to say is “high-speed rail” so please tell me how this State knows how to spend money… California is a thief and the people that live in “high fire” regions understand that fact and should not be further “taxed” for where they live.
On the right side November 05, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Get real. Fees, Fines, Taxes, whatever you want to call them, NEVER get to where they say they will go. It is too easy for the overpaid and under worked HACKS in Sac. to shuffle the money. This is just another money grab.
On the right side November 05, 2012 at 06:00 PM
You don't have to have extensive experience with the state budget, you just have to know libs and their cronies!!!! They're great at spending other peoples money without using any common sense. Now they are backed into a corner and are looking for ANY out.
Michelle Randall November 05, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Actually, DeWayne (nice to address someone with a given name) I agree with much that you have said, but these Fire Fee funds are designated to go only to CalFire. I, like you seem to be, tend to be a skeptic. (Seems to come with age and experience) but the Fire Fees will never hit the state's General Fund. People who complain that they don't add to fire protection services are a little bit right. Without this fee, CalFire will manage to maintain their fire fighting services in spite of cuts to their budget by discontinuing fire prevention services. With this fee, they can maintain the status quo of excellent all-around service that we have now. I will end by saying I am really offended that Kevin Jeffries thinks it is O.K. for those of us in rural areas to be threatened by fire and mud slides. His best event seems to be grasping at the moment without considering any consequences. God help us all if he becomes Supervisor. Actually, Mr. Jeffries becoming Supervisor is a real possibility since he is actively persuing the Republican vote. Many folks don't realize that Supervisor is a non-partisan position, and will vote along party lines instead of voting for the best man for the job. Mr. Jeffries really has no qualifications for Supervisor. Supervisor Bob Buster has proven to be an excellent Supervisor. I urge you to vote for the best man, Bob Buster.
Antonio November 05, 2012 at 07:33 PM
On the wrong side, you spout off a lot making all kinds of allegations without any facts or experience. Your just venting. The government belongs to us the citizens (that includes you, stupid) not wealthy right-wing fat cats. Wake up.
SA November 05, 2012 at 09:25 PM
In theory you are correct, but in reality you are so wrong in a whole your opinion is appreciated. The government is penalizing people for living in the “sticks” and it is left thinking. I truly hope Mitt takes the office then we just get rid of Brown and we will be sitting pretty.
Antonio November 06, 2012 at 12:18 AM
SA, no your wrong. Accountants, in developing fees, are required to place costs first against those who cause the costs. There is no penalizing or moral issues involved. Simple cost accounting. Sorry but Obama is ahead in the last ABC Poll 50/47 over Romney. This has no affect on Governor Brown. FYI, in California all elected State Constitutional Offices (Governor, Lt. Governor, Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General, etc) are Democrats. You don't sound very educated. Better get some it helps you and society or maybe you would like to live in Mississippi better.
bill barnes December 17, 2012 at 11:03 PM
More taxes under a different name , more money Jerry Brown will flush down the tubes. Brown is running more good people out of California, He's pulling the same stunts he did 30 + years ago. How soon we forget !
DARRELL OSBORN December 24, 2012 at 07:52 PM
THIS IS JUST ANOTHER ILLEGAL TAX, THAT WILL BE OVERTURNED IN THE COURT SYSTEM. PLEASE HELP US ELIMINATE IT . WE MUST PUT UP A FIGHT OR THIS WILL CONTINUE . DRAW A LINE IN THE SAND AND STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS. WHY SHOULD WE HAVE TO PAY FOR HUGE PENSIONS AND MISMANAGEMENT. IF YOU DONT DO ANYTHING ELSE, AT LEAST HELP GET JERRY BROWN (MOON BEAM GOVENOR) OUT OF OFFICE.
Antonio December 25, 2012 at 02:36 AM
First it's not a tax. It only applies to residences in high fire areas. It'g good public policy and proper accounting. California fee laws require that the costs of a service should first be allocated to those activities that directly cause the costs. Why should the taxpayers pay for the extra costs to fight fires in high fire areas? Stop ranting and put forth logic. Beating your chest ain't cutting it.
more taxes January 02, 2013 at 01:42 AM
all the drugs Jerry did finely caught up to him ...His out of his mind ! He needs to get out office while he still knows his name....
Antonio January 02, 2013 at 05:02 AM
More taxes, I just heard that Grover Norquist, now agrees with you about higher taxes. You can read about in tomorrows newspaper. You do read the newspaper don't you?

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