August 20, 2011 (San Diego) –State Supervisors are firing back after the state slashed spending for firefighting services and enacted a fire parcel fee on rural residents.
“Public safety in the San Diego region will be jeopardized as a result of these significant funding reductions,” Supervisors stated in an August 17 letter sent to Governor Jerry Brown and San Diego’s state legislators. “Cutting CAL FIRE funding is not a prudent solution to resolving the State’s budget crisis and will pale in comparison to the costs incurred by the State to respond to the next major wildfire.”
The letter follows a unanimous vote by Supervisors on August2 on a motion brought by Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Pam Slater-Price. Under the action, Supervisors also agreed to support legal efforts to challenge the state’s new fire parcel fee of up to $150 per dwelling for properties in Cal Fire’s state responsibility areas (SRAs). An estimated 65,000 parcels with dwelling units in San Diego would be affected, the County estimates.
Supervisors contend that the SRA Fee constitutes an “illegal tax” and is a “desperate measure that unfairily targets rural property owners who already pay for fire protection through property taxes.” Many of those property owners also pay additional taxes and benefit assessment fees to local fire districts, as much as $382 a year, the letter noted.
Supervisors noted that San Diego County’s fire protection investment includes $15.5 million a year, of which roughly two-thirds goes for contracts with CAL FIRE to provide fire protection services 24 hours a day at over 50 stations in the State Responsibility Areas in San Diego’s rural backcountry areas.
San Diego has suffered more than 50 large wildfires in the past 10 years, including the devastating 2003 Cedar Fire and the 2007 firestorms. Collectively these fires burned nearly a million acres, destroyed thousands of homes, and cost lives.
ABX1 29, the bill that imposed the fire parcel fee, does not even assure a higher level of fire protection, Supervisors further noted. “In fact, as a result of budget cuts the existing levels of fire protection will not even be sustained.” They also expressed concern that fire parcel fee revenues might be used for CAL FIRE administrative expenses instead of firefighting services.
“We urge you to make public safety a budget priority by restoring CAL FIRE funding immediately to protect life, safety and property throughout the state and in the San Diego region,” the letter concluded, urging that APX1 29 be repealed.