This month El Dorado County residents will start getting bills from the state for $150 for fire prevention. The money will go to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, recently rebranded as Cal Fire.
The fees were passed by the Legislature without a two-thirds vote required by Proposition 26. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association plans to file suit as soon as the bills arrive. In the meantime, there is no way to get out of paying the bill. Everyone who lives within the boundaries of a local fire district can deduct $35 from the $150.
Not paying the bill is not an option. El Dorado County Assessor Karl Weiland told the Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County Aug. 6 that the law allows fines of up to 20 percent per month for nonpayment. One can pay it under protest.
The following information comes from the Website calfirefee.com, which appears to be a project of George Runner, who represents this area on the State Board of Equalization:
The law requires that the petition be mailed to the California Department of Forestry’s Fire Prevention Fee Service Center, PO Box 2254, Suisun City 94585. Each petition is required to include:
1) The specific grounds upon which the appeal is being contested; 2) evidence supporting the claims made in the appeal.
Grounds for appeal can include (but are not limited to) any of the following:
• The structure is commercial (not residential).
• You were not the owner in July 2011.
• The structure is not in a State Responsibility Area. (See the map at calfirefee.com.)
• This bill is an unconstitutional tax. The California Constitution requires that new taxes be approved by two-thirds 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.
You must pay the fee and file the protest petition within 30 days.