Cal Fire Fee Update March 10th 2014,
Karl Weiland, El Dorado County Assessor
The 2013/2014 CAL FIRE Fee bills are due to be mailed by Cal Fire to El Dorado County property owners starting the week of March 10th. Below are some Do's and Don'ts and other useful information to help you understand and deal with this fee enacted by the California Legislature.
NEW INFORMATION FROM CAL FIREFOR 2013
What if I cannot afford to pay the entire bill? Can I make payments?Homeowners may file a petition without payment if they are financially unable to pay the amount in full. The Board of Equalization (BOE) advises the owner to make an initial payment of any amount they can reasonably afford, with a note explaining what they are able to pay per month. Another alternative is to call the BOE and speak to collection staff, who will make notes on the account of the payment terms. The BOE is working with callers to make payments over a 5-10 month period if needed. The BOE is sensitive to the many factors to consider such as fixed incomes or unemployment, and these are not business owners but rather private citizens. When any homeowner enters into a payment plan within 45 days of billing and completes the payment of the fee portion, the BOE relieves the penalty charge. Additionally, interest accrues on any unpaid fee amount over the course of the payment plan, but is generally well under a dollar a month. BOE would also like to remind feepayers with an inability to pay their fire fee billing in full that they can call BOE toll-free at 1-800-400-7115, and select option "4," to be connected to a representative in the special taxes and fees section who can help them arrange a payment plan suitable to each feepayer's financial situation.
Will I have to pay the fee for fiscal year 2012/2013 if my property was removed from SRA as a result of the 2013 focusedreview?Yes, the 2013 SRA changes were approved by the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection on May 8, 2013. This new SRA map will be used to determine structures in the SRA for the Fire Prevention Fee effective July 1, 2013; the 2014 bills will reflect these changes.Consequently, if you owned the property on July 1, 2012, you would be responsible for paying the fee in 2013 because the fee is assessed once a year on the owner of record as of July 1 of the fiscal year in which the fee is due.
INFORMATION FOR REAL ESTATEPROFESSIONALS:
How Were Habitable Structures Identified?The owners of SRA habitable structures are identified by a joint effort between CAL FIRE and the Designated Fee Administrator (DFA) under contract to CAL FIRE. The DFA is a firm that specializes in the administration of benefit fees and other levies for governmental agencies throughout California. Determination of habitable structures, as required by state law, is technical and use of the DFA gains accuracy and efficiency.
CAL FIRE maintains boundaries of State Responsibility Areas (SRA) in a spatial database and has worked with the DFA to locate parcels and habitable structures that are within SRA boundaries. As part of its ongoing business, the DFA has statewide property data that comes from a variety of sources, including electronic parcel and mapping information. All of this information was used to identify habitable structures.
If a property owner feels that the information used to identify their habitable structures is incorrect, they should contact the Fire Prevention Fee Service Center directly because only the Service Center, which is part of the DFA, and CAL FIRE are responsible for the fee determinations. The DFA and CAL FIRE will also handle the review of any potentially incorrect fees or incorrect property information.