Longtime critic of the fire tax and author of several legislative proposals to repeal the illegal tax, State Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) made another call for the repeal of the tax following an investigation that found “errors and inconsistencies” in State Responsibility Area boundaries.
“Time and time again, we see news reports of careless errors in the implementation and spending of this tax,” said Sen. Nielsen. “It is time for the Governor to do the right thing and repeal the fire tax.”
Board of Equalization Member George Runner today announced that this year’s fire tax bills will be delayed temporarily. Property owners were scheduled to be billed in early April.
The Mountain Democrat newspaper reported that Cal Fire found “errors and inconsistencies” in State Responsibility Area (SRA) boundaries. Over 1,300 parcels were incorrectly identified in SRA boundaries.
Earlier this year, news reports exposed the unauthorized transfer of $3.6 million in Cal Fire’s settlement monies to an outside organization since 2005. This money has been inappropriately spent on a wide array of questionable expenditures that have nothing to do with reimbursing the state for firefighting costs, including $33,000 at a luxury resort in Pismo Beach and the purchase of 600 digital cameras.
According to the Governor’s proposed budget, Cal Fire will not be using the SRA fire tax revenue solely on fire prevention as was its stated statutory purpose; but on administration and other bureaucratic costs which do not provide any specific benefit to SRA taxpayers. Legislators and taxpayers were deceived.
In the 2013-14 budget, Cal Fire asked for permission to use part of the approximately $90 million collected from the SRA tax to pay for 10 permanent staff positions to support the Civil Cost-Recovery Program, the very program from which the hidden funds derived. This will take away $1.7 million from fire prevention.
Parcel owners who feel they were billed in error have 30 days to appeal. For further information, go to FirePreventionFee.org or call Cal Fire at (888) 310-6447.
“The fire tax is not about fire prevention. It is about grabbing more money for government. Predictably, government agencies have made errors in their overreaching while assessing this tax,” stated Nielsen.