The Board of Equalization announced Wednesday that officials will postpone collections of a controversial fee designed to pay for fire prevention work in areas where Cal Fire is responsible for protecting the state's wildlands.
State officials reported that the high volume of appeals have created a heavy workload for state officials and a delay may give Cal Fire more time to make sure officials are using accurate billing information.
The fire prevention fee is a $150 charge to be levied on homes within the "State Responsibility Area," where Cal Fire is tasked with preventing and fighting fires. The area includes several places up and down the state, including much of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the fee. The group argues the fire prevention fee should be regarded as a tax. The bill that created the fee passed both houses of the Legislature by a simple majority instead of the two-thirds majority required for taxes, so the Howard Jarvis group is contending the bill never really became law.
"Until the Courts decide the constitutionality of this legislation, it remains the law and the Board has no alternative but to follow the law which gives Cal Fire the authority to direct the board to delay the collection of the fee. Time will determine whether these funds were necessary to help prevent and manage fires
The courts are not the only venue where the fee is being challenged. Multiple lawmakers, including Assemblymen Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, have introduced bills seeking to eliminate the fee.