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State begins billing SRA fee for second time

By the Rancho Santa Fe Fire District

In early 2011, The California Legislature adopted legislation that required the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (BOF) to develop and implement a program to assess a fire prevention fee on homeowners within State Responsibility Areas (SRA). In November 2011 the BOF voted to adopt regulations to implement the fee mandated by the Legislature. The mandatory annual fee of $150 per habitable structure, based on the County Assessor rolls or as recorded on the records of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, will go to help fund prevention activities on SRA lands. A $35 credit per habitable structure will be given to those who live on SRA lands but pay for fire protection from a second agency, such as the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District (RSFFPD). There have been and are ongoing attempts to overturn it; however, the California Board of Equalization, which invoices the bill, sent out its first billing notices in October of last year.

The Board of Equalization is now sending out the notices for this year’s billing cycle to the State. The SRA bill, which will be separate from the property tax bill and is scheduled to be mailed between Sept. 25 and Oct. 4, will be used for fire prevention services and programs provided by the state, not local agencies. According Cal Fire’s website, this may include “brush clearance around communities on public lands, along roadways and evacuation routes; and activities to improve forest health so the forest can better withstand wildfire.”

Most of the communities covered by the RSFFPD, including the Covenant, Fairbanks Ranch, Cielo, The Crosby, The Lakes, and The Bridges, are on SRA lands, while most of 4S Ranch is not on SRA lands. The BOF has a tool on its website to help residents determine whether or not their home is on SRA lands. The tool can found at www.bof.fire.ca.gov/sra_viewer.

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The decision to assess the SRA fee was not an immediate one. In 2004, SB 1049, was enacted and imposed an annual fee, to be collected on the county level to fund fire prevention activities, on all parcels of land located within SRAs. However, before any money was collected, the fee was repealed by SB 1112. The fee was revisited during the 2007-2008 budget process at the suggestion of the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) as a means of recovering costs for services provided to private beneficiaries and the BOF voted in favor of the fee during their November 2011 meeting.

CAL FIRE has developed a website with information about the SRA fee. The site includes a number of helpful links, as well as the phone number to the SRA Fee Implementation Center. The website can be accessed at

www.firepreventionfee.org

.

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