FLAMINGO HEIGHTS — The Homestead Valley Community Council fired off an eleventh-hour protest Tuesday against the collection of fire-protection fees.
The unincorporated communities of the Homestead Valley — Yucca Mesa, Flamingo Heights, Landers and Johnson Valley — are united in opposition to the new state fee, charged to landowners in certain rural areas.
“Homestead Valley properties in the designated State Responsibility Area are already assessed for fire prevention and protection,” Jim Harvey, the community council’s president, wrote in a letter to the state’s Office of Administrative Law. “We believe this proposed fee is nothing more than a tax and will constitute double taxation.”
The state Assembly passed the bill creating the new fee last year. It requires the Board of Equalization to adopt emergency regulations to establish a fire prevention fee, not to exceed $150, to be charged on each structure on a parcel within a State Responsibility Area.
The bill also requires the Board of Equalization to collect the fire prevention fees, effective Sept. 1, 2011.
On each Jan. 1, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is required to provide the Board of Equalization the names and addresses of people who are liable for the fire prevention fee, and the amount to be charged.
Harvey told the state the fire-fee boundaries applied to the Homestead Valley communities do not discern between areas of high and low fire risk as determined by Cal Fire. “We feel the boundaries are arbitrary and outdated,” he wrote.
Harvey noted to the council board that Yucca Mesa and Landers are not included in the boundaries for fire charges, but Flamingo Heights, Johnson Valley and neighboring Lucerne Valley are.
The six-day public comment period offered by the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection on the emergency collection included a weekend and a federal holiday, he pointed out.
“They don’t have the infrastructure for collection and distribution set up yet, but it looks like they just want to get this thing in and get the money collected so they’re invoking these emergency rules,” Harvey told the Homestead Valley board at its public meeting Monday.
In a final salvo, the Homestead Valley letter cast doubt on the standing of the fee program.
“The rush to implement collection under such rules is questionable and projects an appearance of impropriety and uncertainty as to the legality of the bill. This misguided program should not be implemented through emergency regulations,” Harvey wrote.
Howard Jarvis’ California Taxpayers Association has joined several state communities and local lawmakers, including San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry, in opposing the bill.