Last week, the state’s Board of Equalization began mailing the Fire Prevention Fee bills for fiscal year 2014-15. Many of more than 700,000 rural Californians are receiving a bill for the fourth time.
About 10,000 bills will be sent each day in alphabetical order by county. The mailing schedule may be viewed at calfirefee.com. The first bills were mailed March 2 to Alameda County residents. Riverside County residents should expect to see their FPF bills the week of April 23 to 29. Final bills will be mailed June 15 to Yuba County residents.
To protect their eligibility for a refund, property owners should protest every billing by filing a new Petition for Redetermination within 30 days of the billing date. Information on how to appeal is available at www.calfirefee.com/appeal.
If a resident believes the fee is not owed, an appeal may be submitted to Cal Fire after the bill from the BOE.
The appeal must be in writing and submitted within 30 days from the date printed on the bill to be considered timely. It must describe the specific grounds upon which the appeal is based. The form and mailing instructions may be found at the FPF website, www.firepreventionfee.org/.
Cal Fire will review and make a decision on the appeal within 60 days from the time it receives the appeal. BOE will be notified of the decision and will send a revised billing or issue a refund if Cal Fire determines the payments made are not due.
Cal Fire may consider an appeal submitted after the 30-day period if it determines the facts presented indicate the fee originally determined may have been excessive or erroneous.
The Board of Forestry and Fire Protection may adjust the fee annually, which is currently $152.33 per habitable structure located within the State Regulated Area. If the habitable structure is also within the boundaries of a local agency that provides fire protection services, such as the Idyllwild Fire Protection District, the property owner will receive a $35 reduction for each habitable structure.
About 98 percent of habitable structures in the SRA are covered by a local fire protection agency resulting in most bills amounting to $117.33 per habitable structure, according to the Board of Forestry.
Since this legislative session opened in December, several bills have been introduced that could change the fee payment. Sen. Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) recently introduced Senate Bill 198 to repeal the tax.
In addition, two identical measures, Assembly Bill 203 (Obernolte) and SB 250 (Gaines), would increase the payment due date of the FPF from 30 days from the date of assessment to 60 days.