November 3, 2012 (Sacramento) – State officials have started mailing notices to tens of thousands of San Diego County property owners warning that they will soon be billed $150 annually to help shore up Cal Fire’s budget. Budget cuts have dropped the number of firefighters per engine, among other cutbacks in wildfire protection.
Residents of Alpine, Dehesa and other communities in Jacob’s Second District report receiving the notices in recent days. They consider the new fire tax an unfair burden, noting they already pay state property taxes to help fund public safety and often community fees for additional fire protection.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association recently filed a class-action lawsuit that argues the statewide tax is illegal and seeks to overturn it. The organization considers it a direct violation of Proposition 13.
Lawmakers in Sacramento approved the tax last year over the strong objection of Supervisor Jacob and the rest of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. The brief notice, which is going out to those living in rural and semi-rural areas, reads in part: “You will soon receive a bill requiring you to pay up to $150 per habitable structure. After you receive your bill, you will have 30 days from the date on the bill to send a payment or appeal the amount of the bill in writing.”
The notice directs those with questions to call 888-310-6447 or go to firepreventionfee.org.
“The state’s decision to move ahead with the fire tax is wrongheaded and unjust,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob said. “As I’ve said before, the $150-a-year tax unfairly targets property owners who already pay state taxes to fund public safety and those who also pay special fees in their communities for additional fire protection. It amounts to triple taxation. The mailing of the notices is an unfortunate reminder that the state is failing to adequately fund Cal Fire and is turning to already-burdened property owners for a bailout. If the state can’t see the light on how wrong this is, hopefully the courts will.”