(Victor Valley)–The State of California has mailed the last of the 2011-12 Fire Prevention “Fee” bills. Although the first round of billings for this controversial new tax is now finished, collection of payments and follow-up about unpaid bills could take months, if not years. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the tax, which I am pleased to be joining, is still working it’s way through the Sacramento Superior Court system. A second round of bills—for the 2012-13 fiscal year—could begin as early as March 2013.
During our December board meeting, a CAL FIRE representative joined our Board staff in providing an update and answering questions. I asked about both the numerous billing problems and the appeals process. A video of the update is available at calfirefee.com. It will be months before the final revenue numbers are available, but as of Friday, December 14, the state had mailed 752,543 bills and received nearly $56 million in payments.
The Governor’s budget assumes the “fee” will bring in $85 million annually, but the large number of unpaid bills (currently 27% of all bills are past due) is sure to put a dent in that number. In an attempt to lower the “noncompliance rate,” the state has mailed demand notices to some of the accounts that are past due (106,076 have been mailed so far). Of the 55,416 appeals that have been filed, more than half have been processed so far. Of those that have been processed, CALFIRE has ruled against the taxpayer 85% of the time. The first refund checks for those who have successfully challenged their billing were mailed last week.
View a video of the most recent staff presentation about the Fire Fee.