Appeals of the state’s fire prevention fee have been overwhelming. Nearly 10 percent of the bills mailed this fall have been appealed, according to Daniel Berlant, CAL FIRE’s information officer.
Consequently, the bills for the 2012-13 fee have been delayed indefinitely, he said. The bills were scheduled to begin mailing April 2.
More than 87,000 appeals were filed, of which 71 percent pertained to issues that CAL FIRE had no legal authority to decide, Berlant said Monday in an interview. Examples of these issues included objections to the fee’s legality.
CAL FIRE wants to review all the other appeals before mailing a new set of bills. These include issues such as the number of structures or ownership changes before the original billing was sent.
“We’re only about half way through the reviews,” Berlant said, stressing that the last of the 2011-12 notifications were not mailed until December. “Still hundreds more to go and there is no official deadline.”
Former Sen. George Runner, now a member of the state’s Board of Equalization, said in a press release this week, “The delay appears to be related to concerns about accuracy of the billing data.” He said, “I’m pleased to see that CAL FIRE is admitting there’s a problem.”
Once the reviews are complete, CAL FIRE can update its database before sending new notifications.
The state fire fee is $150, but is reduced to $115 if the property is within a local fire jurisdiction, such as Idyllwild Fire Protection District.
Several Idyllwild property owners have raised questions about their billings, including the subjects of accurate ownership records and reception of payments.