Over 100 Anza area residents agreeing the annual California Fire Prevention fee is “illegal”, appeared Friday at the Anza Community Center at a town meeting called by Senator Jeff Stone (R-28th Dist.) and Board of Equalization representatives.
This month California landowners with habitable structures were sent the annual averaged $150 per parcel Fire Prevention Fee imposed by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and ordered to pay it within 30 days or face the threat of a property lien.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is fighting the fee with a lawsuit nearing a state court hearing and possible decision. The HJTA has enlisted the support of many state legislators like Stone, California Board of Equalization, rural property and business owners, and even a large number of fire chiefs statewide.
Although Stone was unable to attend, his field representatives and Jordan Z. Marks, Esq. district director of taxation and regulatory affairs, State Board of Equalization (BOE), were on hand to answer questions about the fire prevention fee lawsuit. Marks said they hope the lawsuit will become a class action suit so full refunds will be available for those petitioning Cal Fire and other agencies involved.
“This is a fee collected like a tax,” Marks said. “We believe it is illegal under Proposition 13.”
He explained that the fee, initiated by Governor Jerry Brown, passed as Assembly Bill 129 in 2011. The fire fee is assessed at approximately $150 per dwelling unit on property within Cal Fire’s response area. Anza and surrounding communities are Cal Fire’s responsibility.
Marks said residents should understand that the money collected from this fee is only for prevention education. “You are not going to see any services from this fee,” he said. “You will see no trucks, no new firefighters or even one hose…just a pamphlet on fire protection.”
Although the BOE is charged with collecting state taxes and fees it is made up of elected officials.
“We represent you,” Marks said, “and it’s a good thing. California is the only state that elects its BOE. In this case the board saw the fee as illegal.”
Diane L. Harkey, board member, joined with Stone and other state legislators and regulators in calling on those affected to petition the state against continuing the fee and to support the HJTA suit.
“You must continue to pay the fee,” said Marks, but exhorted the Anza residents to fill out a Petition for Redetermination each year. So if the court finds for the plaintiff, HJTA, those who have petitioned should get a refund. This must be done within 30 days of the date on the fee bill, he said. “I know this might be hard for some, but maybe it still will be accepted.”
PFRs were handed out to those who wanted them at the meeting and were told still they could obtain them from any of Stone’s representatives or by visiting firetaxprotest.org. They may also write the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association at 921 11th St., Sacramento, CA 95814.
Jesse Ramirez, Stone’s field representative in Anza, and Glenn Miller’s District Representative, told the group that they will soon be setting up mobile field units to make regular trips to the town in the near future.