Placer Supe Holmes lodges fire fee protest with state Fire Board

Supervisor cites double taxation, past court case
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Citing Placer County concerns, Supervisor Jim Holmes has testified against the Cal Fire fee at a State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection hearing. State lawmakers approved a bill last year that applies a State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Benefit Fee of $150 annually to property owners with habitable structures in designated rural areas. But it left implementation up to the Board of Forestry. ?We opposed State Responsibility Area (SRA) fees when first introduced several years ago on the grounds they were a bad public policy and they were repealed as a result of legal action,? Holmes told the board. ?SRA fees remain a bad idea and we remain opposed.? Holmes, who represents District 3 on the county board, went before the state fire board Wednesday to say that Cal Fire?s most expensive firefighting efforts are for fire suppression in highly urbanized areas, not rural area which would be the only areas paying the fee. ?Many landowners in the SRA have already agreed to tax themselves for fire protection and prevention services, which are being performed by local fire agencies rather than Cal Fire,? Holmes said. ?Imposing a Cal Fire fee effectively taxes the people twice without any additional benefit.? Holmes added that Cal Fire needs a healthy and strong local fire protection infrastructure to achieve its mission and protect California from the effects of wildfires. ?SRA fees weaken the state?s mutual aid system by unraveling the ?respond-first-we?ll-figure-out-the-cost-later? understanding,? Holmes said. Holmes, a former Auburn-area local fire board member and currently a board member on the Regional Council of Rural Counties, has actively opposed the Cal Fire fee throughout his seven years on the Board of Supervisors. Holmes? testimony comes as Eureka Democrat Wes Chesbro and Riverside Republican Kevin Jeffries shepherd bills they have authored through Capitol committees. Chesbro?s Assembly bill is an attempt to resolve what opponents of the SRA fees see as inequities imposed on structure owners in rural areas. Jeffries? Assembly bill would repeal recently instituted fees on structure owners within the SRA, commonly referred to as the ?fire fee.? Fire fee regulations will be opened for public review next month and written comments will be accepted by the state panel.