Chief Abbott addresses fire tax

North County Fire Protection District (NCFPD) fire chief Steve Abbott was a speaker at the Fire Districts Association of California conference in Monterey last month.

Abbott presented a white paper on the State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Benefit Fee which assesses the owner of each property with habitable structures and in a firefighting state responsibility area $150 annually. The white paper “Rekindle: A Mutual Aid Request to Extinguish the State Fire Tax, Again” notes that fire agencies themselves are receiving little benefit from the tax.

“The whole goal of the presentation was to give the districts the direction that they needed to provide information to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to support their claim that it’s an unfair tax,” Abbott said. “I think the mission was accomplished.”

In 2011 the California state legislature made property with habitable structures and in a firefighting state responsibility area subject to the “State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Benefit Fee”. The legislature and Governor Brown left implementation of the $150 annual fee to the Board of Forestry.

The assessment affects 56 of California’s 58 counties; Sutter County is mostly irrigated agriculture and has no California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection responsibility area while San Francisco County consists entirely of the City of San Francisco and is covered by its city fire department.

Cal Fire’s primary responsibility is wildland fire prevention and suppression, which the state legislature noted in its decision to include areas within local fire districts since local fire agencies focus on life and property protection. If a local agency is providing fire protection the fee is reduced by $35 to $115 annually.

“We’re not getting anything, literally anything, in return,” Abbott said. “That’s been the case since the fee was enacted in 2011.”

The NCFPD totals approximately 92 square miles, and approximately 88 square miles of that is within a state responsibility area. NCFPD property owners are taxed more than $1 million each year for the state fire fee.

Approximately 150 Fire Districts Association of California members were in the audience when Abbott gave his presentation.

“It was very well received,” said Abbott. “I didn’t know how it was going to go because there are many districts that are served by Cal Fire.”

The consensus of the areas served by Cal Fire was supportive of Abbott’s arguments.

“They weren’t receiving any benefit either,” said Abbott.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is challenging the constitutionality of the assessment, which was enacted without voter approval on the grounds that those paying what was declared to be a fee rather than a tax do not receive a special benefit or direct service.

6 Responses to "Chief Abbott addresses fire tax"

  1. Dave   May 14, 2017 at 7:02 am

    I would be curious to know if those Fire Districts that were in opposition to the fee and had received nothing from the fee had taken the time to apply for any of the multiple grants that have been given out because of the Fire Prevention Fee?

  2. Me   May 14, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Well stated Chief Abbott.

  3. jerry A.   May 14, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Calling a tax, a fee, does not make it any less a tax.

  4. John   May 14, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    The fee is not for fire agencies to use to subsidize their budgets. The funding is for communities to use for fire prevention, education and fuels management. Fire Safe Councils or other non-profit organization can apply for grants to do fuels work or educational materials other wise not budgeted for. Thousands of acres have been treated in high risk area to reduce fire threat in wildland urban interface areas.


  5. grunt   May 15, 2017 at 7:40 am

    $150 fire tax, $150 increase in car registration, massive increase in tank of gas; soon Californians will be unable to pay Federal Tax as they will have no $$ left after paying all taxes and fees to the state. Where does the General fund money go? I have delayed my retirement due to the increasing cost of living (taxes, fees).

  6. pl   May 15, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    You have been paying $117.33 in illegal taxes every year since 2011. Thanks to Joe Naiman for his 13 May article on the State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Prevention “Fee.” As North County Fire Protection District (NCFPD) Fire Chief Steve Abbott pointed out, we get nothing in return for more than $1 million we in the NCFPD pay every year for this state fire “fee.”
    Hopefully, you have filed protests, so your money will be rebated following the ongoing legal challenge. If you haven’t protested yet, check out a project of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.


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