The legislative session is over for 2014, but litigation continues on the validity of the State Responsibility Area “fire prevention fees”. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) reports that their suit to overturn the fee is being stalled by the state, which is filing “demurrers”, which are requests to dismiss the suit based on legal or procedural impediment. The state is arguing that the case should not be a class action suit and that the people have have not filed for refunds should not receive them.
The court has ruled that class action is appropriate but upheld the objection regarding refunds for people who have not filed for them. This is why it’s very important that you continue to file for refunds when you pay the fee.
HJTA is now seeking the paper trail of where the money is going as part of the suit. If it is not going for fire prevention work delivered to the property owner who paid the fee, it is not a true service fee and is therefor a tax.
So, where is this money going? I know I haven’t had any state-sponsored fire prevention work done on my land.
CAL FIRE has two new grant programs. There is a Fire Prevention Grant Program funded by your SRA fees. The application guidelines can bee seen at: http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_prevention/downloads/SRA_Grants_ProceduralGuide.pdf. Briefly, the grants are to “undertake fire prevention activities that address the risk and potential impact of wildfire to habitable structures in the SRA as worsened by drought conditions”. There is a wide array of eligible project types, but the kicker is that eligible participants must be “local entities including, but not limited to, local government, fire districts, community services districts, water districts, and special districts with SRA within their jurisdiction, or certified local conservation corps, Fire Safe Councils, or other nonprofit organizations”. In short, you aren’t going to get your money back by getting a grant as an individual. There are also some expensive pre-qualifying steps to be taken: you may need a CEQ document, you may need to employ an RPF for a fuel hazard reduction design, there are required pre- and post-project evaluations and so forth, and all work must be completed by March 15, 2017.
If this doesn’t float your boat, then there are Urban and Community Forestry Grants funded by the cap and trade revenue stream. The goal here is, of course, greenhouse gas reduction. The available grants can be found at: http://www.fire.ca.gov/resource_mgt/resource_mgt_urbanforestry_grants.php#.
The focus here is trees and parks in developed areas, and once again, the grants are intended for city and county government entities or non-profit organizations. Check it out if you want to see where the greenhouse gas reduction money that’s been jacking our fuel prices is going to.