New fees for rural SLO County residents
August 13, 2012
Later this week, thousands of San Luis Obispo County rural residents will begin receiving bills for a new annual “fire prevention fee” levied by the state of California and criticized by opponents as unnecessary and illegal.
Gov. Jerry Brown proposed the fee last year and lawmakers approved it in order to generate an estimated $84 million for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The annual charge can run as high as $150 for each single occupied dwelling in rural areas. Most property owners will receive a $35 discount for living in a fire district; an estimated 90 percent of structures qualify for that savings.
Cal Fire officials estimate 800,000 such structures exist on land where it provides fire service.
The annual fee is slated to pay for fire-prevention efforts such as thinning brush and trees from around structures and not for fire suppression.
Officials from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said they plan to file a lawsuit to have the fee declared unconstitutional because it is actually a tax, which requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to enact.