Monday, October 20, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

County joins SRA ‘fire fee’ lawsuit

By
From page A1 | October 29, 2012 |

The best way to change a law is not to disobey it, but first to obey it and then challenge it. Such is the counsel regarding the state-imposed fire fee for residents who live in State Responsibility Areas under the jurisdiction of Cal Fire.

The $150 levy per habitable structure was approved by a simple majority of the state legislature last year, and the bills began arriving over the past two months — mostly to those property owners in rural areas.
Opponents have called the state’s action an illegal tax hike which, under the constitution, would have required a two-thirds vote of the legislature. Instead, the “fee” as constituted was approved by a simply majority of the legislature.
In a recent move, the “El Dorado County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to join the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) class action lawsuit seeking to overturn the state fire fee,” announced a prepared statement from the county’s Chief Administrative Office Wednesday.
The board has discussed the issue a number of times since July and more than once advised irate constituents to pay first and join a concerted effort to overturn the law later.
“Hundreds of residents have contacted the county to voice their frustration about the fire tax,” said board chairman John Knight. “The Board of Supervisors can’t sit idly by while the state is running a legalized extortion scheme on rural residents,” the statement said.
Cal Fire, in effect, is the statewide fire department responsible for public lands and areas that generally have no other fire protection, that is, mostly rural or rural-suburban regions. It does not cover areas within city boundaries or lands controlled by the federal government. The official Cal Fire Website describes the fee in the following:
“This fee will fund a variety of important fire prevention services within the SRA including brush clearance around communities on public lands, along roadways and evacuation routes; and activities to improve forest health so the forest can better withstand wildfire.”
El Dorado County, like other foothill and semi-rural counties is composed of areas and regions that are served by local fire protection districts as well as by Cal Fire. Homeowners in such areas receive a $35 “discount” from the $150 fee. Opponents of the fee have challenged the accuracy of some of the maps Cal Fire developed to define its SRAs relative to local jurisdictions.
Opposition has also been based on what the above description does not say. That is, the fee pays for certain fire prevention activities but does not enhance fire fighting or fire suppression activities on the ground. In addition, there is widespread belief that the law will simply funnel revenue into the state’s General Fund and not directly to Cal Fire.
El Dorado County Auditor-Controller Joe Harn explained that the county faces a dilemma similar to that of local citizens. The departments of transportation, environmental management and chief administrative office control properties that include “habitable structures,” Harn noted in a recent e-mail.
“I paid the $115 fee for DOT based on DOT’s request. I would have refused to pay it except County Counsel Lou Green asked me to pay at least one of the fees so that we would be in better standing to sue the State over the fee,” Harn wrote. “On Tuesday, the Board asked me to pay the other two fees.”
Wednesday’s announcement described the county’s land holdings subject to the fire fee. They include parcels that have been purchased for road right of way and the homeless facility on Perks Court at Highway 50 and Missouri Flat Road.
There are also residential units adjacent to the county’s corporation yard on Headington Road and at the Union Mine disposal site in El Dorado for which the county received bills for the fire fee.
“The county filed a Petition for Redetermination, and submitted letters to state officials indicating the county’s payment of the fee was provided under protest,” the statement continued.
“The county’s letter argues that the fire fee is actually a tax which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature… For this reason, the County of El Dorado pays the Fire Prevention Fee under protest and reserves all rights to pursue a refund of said amount through judicial action or otherwise.”

Subscription Required

Thank you for reading the MtDemocrat.com digital edition. In order to continue reading this story please choose one of the following options.

Current Subscribers
If you are a current subscriber and wish to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com, please select the Subscriber Verification option below. If you already have a login, please select "Login" at the lower right corner of this box.

Subscriber Verification

Special Introductory Offer
For a short time we will be offering a discount to those who call us in order to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your print subscription. Our customer support team will be standing by Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm to assist you.

Call and Save! (530) 344-5000

If you are not a current subscriber and wish not to take advantage of our special introductory offer, please select the $12 monthly option below to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your online subscription

Help?
.

News

King Fire salvage operations continue

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1

 
Camino manhunt ongoing

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Psychiatrist: Winkler has disorders

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Motorcycle fatal on Omo Ranch Road

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

 
McClintock fired up over fire and water

By Chris Daley | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Planning Commission halts Town Center apartments

By Julie Samrick | From Page: A3

 
Officials warn of jury duty warrant scam

By News Release | From Page: A3

.

Opinion

The balancing act: Figuring out the ballot

By Larry Weitzman | From Page: A4

 
Belltower: Oakland Aviation Museum

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A4

No to Prop. 45

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

A double-edged opportunity for Cameron Park

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Kirk Smith for City Council

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Measure K

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Measure K goes too far

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Vote Penn for smart economic development

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Disappearing signs

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

A bully

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
.

Sports

Roundup: Oct 17, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Union Mine jumps back in the saddle

By Scott Warden | From Page: A6

Cougar boys keep it rolling

By Mark Devaughn | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Golden Sierra runs out of time

By Cody Holliday | From Page: A6

Volleyball: El Dorado sweeps Griz

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A6

 
Schedule: Oct. 20-25, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Oak Ridge drops third straight; playoffs in peril

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A7

Bruins’ 4th quarter lead slips way

By Mike Bush | From Page: A7

 
.

Prospecting

Dedication unites two kindred spirits

By Pat Lakey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
New CD celebrates a life in Placerville

By Mike Roberts | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Juvenile Service Council is holding a golf tourney

By Juvenile Service Council | From Page: B2

 
As we were: All shook up

By Ken Deibert | From Page: B2

Food bank to hold hunger walk

By Food Bank Of El Dorado County | From Page: B3

 
High school district delivers 21st century classrooms

By El Dorado Union High School District | From Page: B3

Old Sac continues Day of the Dead celebration

By Old Sacramento | From Page: B4

 
Fantasy glides on the ice

By Disney On Ice | From Page: B10 | Gallery

 
.

Essentials

Crime Log: Oct. 7-11

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
Correction

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

Building permits 10/6-10/2014

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

 
.

Obituaries

.

Real Estate

.

Comics