OPINION

Siskiyou Supervisor says state fire fee should be repealed

Guest opinion by Michael Kobseff, Siskiyou County Supervisor, District 3
Siskiyou County's District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff

In 2011, the State Legislature pushed through a budget bill that created a new fee on all rural homeowners living in the State Responsibility Area (SRA). This effort was done without any opportunity for public input and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown. It was implemented by the Board of Forestry in January 2012.

If you live in the SRA, you could be getting a bill before the end of 2012 from the State Board of Equalization for a yearly $150 per habitable structure on your property.

The State Legislature front-loaded $10 million in this year's budget to the State Board of Equalization for administrative costs for billing rural county residents on the assumption the SRA fee bills would be paid by 825,488 rural property owners receiving a bill.

The State wants you to pay last year's fee (first bill you will receive) and this year's fee which will be billed in March 2013.

CAL FIRE is a statewide agency serving the entire population of California. The agency's most expensive activities occur in urban areas where residents will not pay a SRA fee. The fee bill promised that monies would go back to SRA residents for CAL FIRE prevention activities and grants to local fire prevention efforts. The state now admits the fee will result in no grant money until at least 2017 because the funds will be eaten up by administrative costs at the state level.

You will be able to appeal the billing to CAL FIRE for a redetermination regarding the fee and the amount within 30 days after you receive your bill from the State Board of Equalization. There is a fee reduction of $35 per habitable structure if property owners are in the boundaries of a local agency providing fire protection services.

Incorporated City residents are not in the SRA, and will not receive a billing.

I consider the fee an illegal tax that state lawmakers, including Governor Brown, are using to make up for their own failed budget decisions. Siskiyou County, along with rural county governments, have been fighting the SRA fee every step of the way with the help of Regional Council of Rural Counties and the California State Association of Counties. Our efforts have not succeeded in stopping this unconstitutional fee/tax.

You can help repeal the SRA Fee by contacting Governor Jerry Brown.

Let him know your outrage of the SRA fee today! It is unfair and needs to be repealed!

Send your letters to Governor Brown at:

Governor Jerry Brown

C/o State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814

Or email the Governor at: http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php