Most Viewed Stories
Fire fee under attack
More than 9,000 Tehama County property owners will be receiving a bill from the state around the end of October for fire prevention.
California's Board of Equalization is mailing out the annual $150 Fire Prevention Benefit Assessment fee to $9,071 county property owners who come under State Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention State Responsibility Area protection.
It is anticipated the new charge will generate about $85 million a year for CalFire and is earmarked to pay for fire prevention services across more than 31 million acres in the state.
CalFire Information Officer Dennis Mathisen said the fire prevention funds will go toward "statewide activties" of a "very general plan."
"The fee will fund a variety of important fire prevention services including brush clearance and activities to improve forest health so the forest can better withstand wildfire," Mathisen said. "Other activities funded by the fee include fire break construction, defensible space inspections, fire prevention engineering, emergency evacuation planning, fire prevention education, fire hazard severity mapping, fire-related law enforcement and implementation of the State Fire Plan."
The collected fees do not pay for suppression efforts, state officials said, such as the $2.9 million it cost to fight the 1,830-acre lightning-caused Ponderosa Fire near Manton in August.
Dean Blankenship, a retired CalFire captain who resides in Corning, said he believes the fee is actually a tax and should have been treated as such.
"My son will have to pay this fee and I will do all I can to help him, and others to fight it anyway I can," he said. Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams said there is a large movement to protest and stop the fee.
"We are one of the last county's in the state to get the bill. There may possibly be an injunction filed in court before it even gets to us," he said.
Congressional candidate and former state Senator Doug LaMalfa has joined the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to "oppose the collection of the tax" and seek that those who do pay the bill receive refunds if the fee is overturned.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association plans to file a class-action lawsuit with a month challenging the fee.
"North State residents can help by officially protesting the tax by sending the payment as soon as possible with the letter of protest to support the litigation. Following this process will help defeat the tax and get refunds to citizens sooner," LaMalfa said in a statement.
LaMalfa and the taxpayers association contend the fee is a tax that requires two-thirds legislative approval.
The fee is $150 per habitable structure.
If a property owner is in a State Responsibility Area and within a local fire district, as some Tehama County properties are, the fee is $35 less, officials said.
The bill gives property owners 30 days to make the payment, and a penalty is levied if the payment is late.
Glenn County property owners billed, totaling 327, and 21,051 Butte County property owners have already recieved their bills.
Shasta County property owners in state responsibility area, totaling 22,392, will probably receive their bills about the same time as Tehama County residents.
The appeal process is included on the bill, and thousands of appeals have already been filed by property owners throughout the state.
"This is a battle we can win and also set the precedent that Prop 26 protects Californians from majority vote tax increases instead of with the required two-thirds vote threshold," LaMalfa said.