Questions loom over fire fee, taxpayers’ lawsuit |

Questions loom over fire fee, taxpayers’ lawsuit

As bills arrive from the California State Board of Equalization, demanding payment for the State Responsibility Area fee, some residents are expressing indignation about how the fee has been implemented.

Some low-income elderly residents have expressed how detrimental the bill is to their personal finances and are worried whether they will be able to pay it on time, as a 20 percent penalty will take effect Nov. 2 if payment is not received.

Venus Stromberg, a spokeswoman for the Board of Equalization, said the legislation that initially established the fee, Assembly Bill 29, establishes the payment schedule.

“The annual fire prevention fee shall be due and payable 30 days from the date of assessment by the state Board of Equalization,” the code reads.

Those who are unable to pay the entire fee in time are asked to call the Board of Equalization at (800) 400-7115 and select option “4.” A representative will be available to arrange a payment plan suitable to each feepayer’s financial situation, Stromberg said.

Another salient concern among residents is the retroactive nature of the bill, which will account for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

“Does that mean we are going to get another bill this year?” said Evelyn Allison, a Grass Valley resident.

Bills for the 2012-13 fiscal year are expected to be sent in spring 2013, Stromberg said.

Finally, residents are questioning whether they need to pay the fee, given the matter is currently in litigation.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, in conjunction with numerous plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court claiming the fee is an illegal tax that should have required a two-thirds vote of the California Legislature, according to the Associated Press.

State Sen. Ted Gaines, who has consistently opposed the fire tax along with many of his Republican colleagues in the legislature, said residents should pay the fee, but include an appeal, or what is officially called a “Petition for Determination” form.

“Residents can officially protest the tax by sending the payment as soon as possible with the ‘Petition for Redetermination’ form,” Gaines said in a prepared statement. “If the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is successful in their lawsuit, the court may order refunds. To qualify for a refund, you must have paid your bill and filed a ‘Petition for Redetermination.’”

The form for the petition and other information is available at

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call (530) 477-4239.

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