A bill (Assembly Bill X1 29) to established a new annual $150 Fire Prevention Fee for fire prevention services was signed into law on July 7, 2011. The fee only applies for property owners who fall within the "state responsibility area" (SRA), but it appears that (1) the funds will go into general fund and not be set aside for fire protection; (2) the fee is actually an illegal tax; (3) property owners who already have local fire protection are also being charged the annual fee. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) has filed a class action suit. Article below is from the HJTA.
Class Action could qualify 825,000 property owners for a Fire Tax refund.
Sacramento â€” 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 more information visit FireTaxProtest.org