State Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro (D, Assembly District 1, North Coast) has submitted a bill to modify the state’s recently enacted fire prevention fee. Assembly Bill 2474 won approval from the Natural Resources Committee Monday, May 7. The bill is intended to make fire protection fees assessed to property owners in State Responsibility Areas more equitable, while continuing to ensure funding for local fire departments and CALFIRE, Chesbro’s bill would amend the July legislation to provide a credit for fees paid to a local agency that provides fire protection services.

“Many property owners in SRAs have already agreed to assess themselves for fire protection and prevention services,” Chesbro said in a press release. “Imposing a $150 state fee on top of this means they pay double or triple for fire protection and prevention services without any additional benefit. It’s unfair to these property owners and it threatens the financial security of local rural fire departments, which in most cases are the first responders to a structure fire in rural areas.”

The current regulations authorize a $35 reduction in the $150 fee, if the property owner also pays fees to a local fire district. Chesbro’s amendment would authorize a credit up to the full amount paid to the local fire protection agency.

For example, residents of Idyllwild Fire Protection District pay a special fee of $65 annually, in addition, to a portion of their county property tax fees.

AB 2474 would also require CALFIRE to develop a fee based on fire history and severity of past fires to ensure the fee is equitable for the fire protection and prevention services received.

In April the committee approved Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R, Lake Elsinore) bill, which would repeal the fee, and Chesbro supported that action. Today he explained the reasons for submitting his own bill.

“As I stated then, I only voted for Mr. Jeffries’ bill because I believe the SRA fee is so unfair,” Chesbro said. “I also stated that given the budget situation, and especially now that the May revise will show that revenues are down, Mr. Jeffries’ proposal has no chance of succeeding. The approach in my bill promotes fairness and equity in how the fee is implemented.”