Property owners in Madera County are about to be hit with another fee. Check you mailbox in August for a bill from the State Board of Equalization (BOE) requiring payment of $115 per parcel, plus $25 for any addition homes on your property. You will have just 30 days to pay.
Madera County is included in a “State Responsibility Area (SRA),” which is designated land where the financial responsibility for preventing and suppressing fires falls to the state, rather than local or federal agencies. There are 880,000 parcels in the state that fall under SRA designation, with 13,727 of those in Madera County.
This fee was part of the 2011-2012 state budget meant to raise some $84 million to offset costs to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The basic fee is $150, but as David Irion, Cal Fire Division Chief, explains, “If there is fire protection in your area, the $150 fee is reduced. Because Madera County has a fire department, residents get a $35 reduction to $115.
At the Town Hall meeting on Thursday, District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler showed an email displaying the notice property owners will be receiving over the next several weeks.
“We have fought this thing so hard,” said Wheeler. “So have a lot of other people in the state, but they’re going to force it on us. This is not a fee, it’s a tax, and that should require two-thirds majority vote in the legislature.”
Opponents and many lawmakers say it amounts to an unconstitutional tax that was passed illegally. The fee has been roundly criticized by such groups as the California Cattlemen’s Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and county officials throughout the state.
It is also strongly opposed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which reportedly has their lawsuit prepared, and has threatened to sue as soon as the first bill is delivered.
After all 58 counties in the state refused to collect the fees without compensation, the job was assigned to the State Board of Equalization. Lacking the funds or the personnel to carry out the task, the BOE appealed to the California Senate Budget Committee which approved their request to create 57 new two-year positions at a cost of some $6.4 million, to bill and collect the fee.
The monies collected will go directly into the general fund, and are earmarked for fire prevention, not fire suppression. The ca.gov website www.firepreventionfee.org states, “This fee will fund a variety of important fire prevention services within the SRA including brush clearance and activities to improve forest health so the forest can better withstand wildfire.”
The first bills will be going out on Monday, July 30,2012. Counties will be billed in alphabetical order by county, and those for Madera County should be sent out on or about August 20th. The schedule is as follows:
July 30th, the first 4 counties will be billed (Alameda, Alpine, Amador, and Butte).
By August 3rd to the next 8 counties (Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Cost, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, and Humboldt).
By August 20th to next 17 counties (Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, and Nevada).
By September 17th to the next 10 counties (Orange, Placer, Plumas, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Joaquin).
By October 17th to the last 17 counties (San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba).
List of Feepayers per County affected by New Fire Fee-
What happens if you don’t pay?
According to Tom Wheeler, District 5 Supervisor for Madera County, if you don’t pay, they will hit your with a 10% per month interest fee, and put a lien against your property. We will be updating this issue with an article on Wednesday, and let you know what your options are.