Montecito Fire District's Response to the SRA Fee
Many residents in Montecito live within the SRA lands. SRA lands are lands in which the state assumes primary financial responsibility for protecting natural resources and watershed from damages from fire.
Montecito residents living in these designated areas have been receiving a notice labeled in red as "Ugent Notice" from the State Board of Equalization (BOE). The notice is alerting them that a fee will be levied for fire prevention services. The notice advises them that they will be charged $150 for each habitable structure on their property. Montecito residents will receive a $35 discount in the fee, reducing it to $115. This reduction is given because they are also within the boundaries of an organized fire agency.
This fee is a result of a legislative trailer bill, Assembly Bill X1 29. The Fire Districts Association of California (FDAC) has actively opposed the bill on behalf of its fire district members since the idea was presented a few years ago as a way to generate additional revenues for the state.
The funds collected from this fee will go directly to CALFire. Montecito Fire has never received funding from CALFire for services or fire prevention activities in our community in the past. This fee is NOT an assessment from Montecito Fire District.
Montecito Fire Protection District Board of Directors adopted a resolution on August 20, 2012 opposing the newly implemented "State Responsibility Area" (SRA) fees, which will impose additional financial burden on its constituents without providing additional fire services.
"It has always been the Board's desire to avoid imposing additional taxes or fees upon the District's constituents," said Roy Jenson, Montecito Fire District Board President. "We want to make it clear that this new fee is not imposed by the District, and will not directly benefit the community in any way."
Requests for exemption or clarification should be directed to CALFire and the BOE. Their contact information can be found here. You can also call 888-310-6447.
To see if a parcel is within the SRA enter in the parcel address in the BOF's State Responsibility Area Viewer. Click Here
Click Here for FAQ's
Click here to see Resolution 2012-07 regarding the Negative Impact of SRA Fees as a result of the adoption of Assembly Bill X1 29.
REFUNDS AND DISPUTES:
You must pay your bill. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE DUE DATE. You may have fewer than 30 days to pay. If you are late, steep penalties and interest are compounded monthly. Moreover, the fee is a lien on your property, and failure to pay can result in foreclosure.
Montecito Fie Protection District, along with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) believes this fee is an illegal tax under Proposition 13. They plan to challenge the constitutionality of this tax in court.
Should the HJTA lawsuit prevail, the court MAY order refunds. To qualify for a refund you must have paid your bill and filed a "Petition for Redetermination" with the responsible agencies.
For convenience, we have posted the form below with the grounds for challenging the fee already filled in. Page 2 contains instructions for completing the form.
When you pay your fee, we recommend that you write "under protest" on the notation line of your check. Also, make a copy of the check so that you can enclose it with your Petition for Redetermination form, as proof of payment.
Although only one address appears at the bottom of the form, state law actually requires that you submit the form to three different addresses. You must submit it WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE DATE OF YOUR BILL to the three addresses below:
1.Fire Prevention Petitions, P.O. Box 2254, Suisun City, CA 94585
2.Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, P.O. Box 944246, Sacramento, CA 94244
3.Board of Equalization, P.O. Box 942879, Sacramento, CA 94279
If you have further questions, click here for the HJTA Frequently Asked Questions.
To stay updated if any further actions need to be taken, sign up here for the HJTA Fire Tax Protest email updates.
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Class Action Suit Filed against Fire Tax
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) has established a website that shows how to protest the fee and provides the necessary forms. Property owners can also sign up for free e-mail bulletins that will keep them informed of the progress of the class action suit. For information on the HJTA Fire Tax Protest visit this website: http://firetaxprotest.org/
October 4, 2012 - Sacramento – Today the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a class action lawsuit to provide relief to nearly one million California property owners who received bills from the State for a new “fire prevention fee” which the lawsuit claims is illegal.
The class action complaint, filed today in Superior Court in Sacramento, seeks to overturn the fire fee, which costs property owners an additional $150 per year for each habitable structure on their property. The class action names plaintiffs from Kern County, Mendocino County, Calaveras County, Butte County, San Bernardino County, Solano County, San Luis Obispo County, El Dorado County, and Lassen County, who together represent a cross-section of the roughly 825,000 property owners subject to the new fee. As the state’s largest taxpayers’ association, HJTA is challenging the constitutionality of the fee on the grounds it is really a tax that needed a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to pass, but garnered only a bare majority and therefore never became law.
The complaint was filed against the California Department of Forestry and the Board of Equalization, as the two agencies responsible for identifying owners of the parcels subject to the new tax and collecting the tax, respectively. If the class action suit is successful, approximately 825,000 homeowners could be eligible for refunds.
“This tax was dreamed up by politicians in Sacramento who are so desperate for revenue that they were willing to ram this through the Legislature without the proper two-thirds vote,” said Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “The fire tax is a direct violation of Prop. 13. It is our goal to overturn this tax, prevent the politicians from taking more money from hardworking people for a program they were already paying for, and help taxpayers to get a refund from the government.”
To be eligible for a refund, property owners must first pay their bill, then file a protest with the State. HJTA has established a website that shows how to protest the fee and provides the necessary forms. Property owners can also sign up for free e-mail bulletins that will keep them informed of the progress of the class action suit.
For information on the HJTA Fire Tax Protest visit this website: http://firetaxprotest.org/