Bills for fire prevention fees headed to rural SLO County mailboxes

Rural homeowners in much of unincorporated San Luis Obispo County should soon get a bill from the state of California for $117 to fund fire prevention activities.

The bills are for the annual state fire-prevention assessment that applies to homes in the county outside city limits in areas with high fire danger, which is most of the county. Nearly 30,000 individual structures in the county are subject to the fee.

Bills for homes in San Luis Obispo County are scheduled to be mailed starting Friday and lasting through Tuesday. The bills are sent out on a county-by-county basis in alphabetical order.

This is the third year of the annual assessment. Cal Fire officials say the money it generates provides a stable source of funds for such fire prevention activities as vegetation management and fire inspections.

The basic fire fee is $152, but residents of San Luis Obispo County get a $35 reduction because unincorporated areas of the county are covered by the county fire department, said Alan Peters, Cal Fire forester.

The legality of the law has been challenged by a class-action lawsuit that is still in litigation. The suit was filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association on the basis that the fee is a tax, which should have required a two-thirds vote by the state Legislature.

Two bills relating to the fee have been filed in the state Assembly. Both are in committee.

One would eliminate a 20 percent monthly penalty for nonpayment on homeowners who appeal the fee but are denied. The other would allow homeowners to appeal the fee to the Board of Equalization if their appeal to Cal Fire is denied.

For more information about the fee, go to www.firepreventionfee.org or call (888) 310-6447.