Assessor provides fire fee information
Bunch said he received correspondence suggesting 5,580 Lassen County landowners will be assessed the fee. More than 825,000 fire fee bills are expected to be sent statewide.
“We only have about 11,000 dwellings,” Bunch said.
But if you have problems or concerns, Bunch said he didn’t know how much help his office could provide.
“The state is basically telling everybody, ‘Don’t waste your time talking to the county about it because it’s between you and the state Board of Equalization (BOE).’ Nobody’s told any assessor they have anything to do with this. They’re saying just the opposite. We don’t get to keep it (the fee); we don’t get to control it. It’s a state law and a state jurisdictional matter. I definitely empathize with the people out there. ”
According to the BOE the notices will be mailed to landowners by county in alphabetical order. Notices should be mailed to Lassen County landowners by Aug. 20. The last notices should be mailed by Oct. 17.
The post card has the fire prevention fee.org website reference and the fire prevention fee service center phone number. There is no reference to any local phone number on the card.
Bunch said bills actually will be mailed beginning Aug. 13. About 4,000 bills per day will be mailed out, but that number is expected to rise to 10,000 per day after a couple of weeks.
The assessor’s office also has added another question to the fire prevention fee.org web page —were habitable structures identified? Bunch said the owners of SRA habitable structures were identified by a joint effort between Calfire and the Designated Fee Administrator (DFA) under contract to Calfire. The DFA is a firm that specializes in the administration of benefit fees and other levies for governmental agencies throughout California.
Determination of habitable structures as required by state law is technical and use of the DFA gains accuracy and efficiency. In addition, use of the DFA maintains uniform application of the fire prevention fee statewide.
Calfire maintains boundaries of the SRA in a spatial database and has worked with the DFA to locate parcels and habitable structures within SRA boundaries.
As part of its ongoing business, the DFA has statewide property data that comes from a variety of sources. This information includes data from assessor rolls, records from the State Department of Housing and Community Development, aerial photographs, various map coverage in electronic form (using spatial or Geographic Information System techniques), and other sources.
All of this information, especially the spatial data, was used to identify habitable structures. Local officials, including county assessors, were not involved in the determination of parcels within SRA or habitable structures subject to the benefit fee. Nor are they involved in the implementation, administration and collection of the fee, including sending bills or dealing with fee appeals. State law places responsibility of fee implementation on state agencies without requirements on local agencies.
“They didn’t work directly with us,” Bunch said. “We got one phone call that said they had eight years experience interpreting records, and (they) didn’t really ask a whole lot. It was a strange deal.”
Bunch said he believes the data in his office’s files is accurate and up to date.
He said he believes manufactured homes will be considered habitable structures and will be subject to the fire fee. Those structures are registered in Housing and Community Development records, Bunch said.
While it might be easy to determine the property owners who pay a tax directly to a fire protection district and qualify for a $35 discount from the state SRA fee, Bunch said it might be more difficult to determine if other taxpayers qualify for the discount.
“There are different ways to pay into a fire district,” Bunch said. “Sometimes you look at your bill and it will say right on there, Janesville Fire District fee, but other times it’s all incorporated in a 1 percent tax rate. That 1 percent tax rates gets shared between the county and the schools, maybe a cemetery district and quite often a fire district. So I wonder if they’re sophisticated enough they’re going to reach inside that 1 percent tax rate and acknowledge someone’s already paying into the Janesville Fire Department.”
Bunch pointed out George Runner, a former state senator and a member of the BOE, is calling the fee a tax.
“That’s kind of a big deal that he’s calling it a tax,” Bunch said. “(If it’s a tax) it probably needs a two-thirds vote. If you call it a fee, that has a total nexus to what it’s trying to accomplish; there’s a difference.”
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