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State to Delay Sending Residents Fire Protection Bills

Mar 21, 2013

Credit Cal Fire

The state of California is putting a temporary halt to sending out new bills to some rural homeowners in the enforcement of a controversial fire prevention fee.

The delay comes as CAL Fire is sorting through a backlog of thousands of appeals from mostly foothill and mountain residents. The state was planning to send out another round of bills in April.

Some 87,000 residents have already appealed the fee. It's unclear when the state will clear the backlog in appeals and send out new bills. 

Last week, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit against the Board of Equalization, challenging the legality of the fire prevention fee. They claim the fee is actually a tax. 

The $150 fee for each habitable structure applies to property owners in areas where Cal Fire has jurisdiction. Those within a local fire protection district are eligible for a $35 reduction in their bills.

Many of the appeals involve property owners who say the maps that Cal Fire is using to calculate fees are outdated. Property owners must appeal their bills within 30 days of the billing date.

Statewide around 825,000 property owners are required to pay the fee. That includes over 26,000 properties in Kern County, with another 10,000 in Fresno County and 13,000 in Madera County.