Assemblyman advises constituents to read new fire tax bills closely

RIVERSIDE AND SAN DIEGO COUNTIES – Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries issued a warning on Nov. 15 advising rural residents in Riverside and San Diego County to watch for errant fire tax bills from the new “State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Prevention Benefit Fee” program.

“Residents who live in rural areas of California are receiving their rural fire tax bills in the mail, and many are discovering errors,” said Jeffries. “Our office has received many calls and emails from people who live outside the tax zone, have received duplicate tax bills, or have been assessed for ‘habitable structures’ they don’t actually have on their properties.”

Those who have received bills under the program are advised to read the bill carefully, determine whether they reside within the SRA zone, ensure that they are only billed for habitable structures, and that they have received the proper discounts ($35) for being within a special fire district or protected by a local fire agency (as all Riverside County residents are). If you find you have been incorrectly billed, you can file a “Petition for Redetermination.” That same link also provides a map to determine if you are within the SRA area, and answers other questions about the fee.

“We have recently received several calls from residents who have received duplicate bills. Unfortunately, we have been told by Cal Fire representatives that you cannot ignore the second bill, but must apply for a Petition for Redetermination in order to get the second bill discharged.

“To add to the problems, all residents in these SRA areas will receive another bill for the 2013 calendar year in the Spring, which is sure to confuse property owners further.”

Jeffries added, “I voted against the legislation that created this fire tax. I believe it was illegally passed and knew it would unnecessarily and unfairly burden rural property owners without receiving any increase in fire protection.

“I also introduced legislation to repeal the tax, which unfortunately failed. I am now supporting efforts by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to overturn this tax in court, but if you have received a bill, you still must either pay it, or file your Petition for Redetermination to challenge it.”

For more official information on the SRA fee from Cal Fire, visit www.firepreventionfee.org.

For information on the legal challenge (protest) regarding the fee, visit www.firetaxprotest.org.

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