Over RCRC's objections, a special fee on habitable structures located within State Responsibility Areas (SRA) was enacted via Assembly Bill 29X as part of the 2011-12 State Budget. The current mechanism requires that a fee be placed upon each habitable structure within the SRA in order to fund fire prevention services. The fee started at $150 per obligated structure and is reviewed annually for potential increases.
Since AB 29X was signed into law, RCRC has worked to persuade policymakers of the significant problems and inequities associated with this fee. In addition to its inequity, there are many other issues associated with the SRA fee, such as inaccurate billing, the inability of fire prevention services to be delivered, and the extremely high costs to administrate a program that raises relatively little revenue.
Several attempts have been made to repeal the fee and/or alter the application of the fee. To date, no substantive change has been made to the structure of the fee or its collection; however, litigation has been filed to challenge the validity of the fee. That litigation is currently working its way through the courts.
Parallel to discussions within the Legislature, the State Board of Forestry & Fire Protection (Board of Forestry) adopted emergency regulations to impose a base fee of $150 on residents in the SRA, with a $35 reduction for structures located in a local fire protection district. On December 5, 2012, the Board of Forestry adopted permanent regulations that were nearly identical to the emergency regulations. Late in 2013, it was announced that the SRA fee would be increased to $152.33 as part of the Board of Forestry’s mandatory annual re-determination under AB 29X.
RCRC believes that disaster management is a statewide issue, since the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) services all types of disasters statewide, and continually advocated for the repeal of the fee. In 2017, as part of the extension of the State’s Cap-and-Trade Auction program, RCRC was able to successfully help influence a full repeal of the fee, with a backfill of the funds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund through the year 2030. Residents living in the SRA will not receive bills for the fee after 2017.