Despite protestations of financial pain, Napa County residents living in rural areas should receive a bill from CalFire for fire protection sometime over the next few weeks.
Rural residents will be billed $115, which is $35 less than residents of many other counties because rural Napa County is also protected by the Napa County Fire Department, according to CalFire.
The bill covers the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to the Bureau of Equalization, which is tasked with collecting the fire prevention fee. The bills for fiscal year 2012-13 will be mailed in the spring, state officials said.
Under the law passed in June 2011, the fee is assessed on 7,300 owners of habitable structures in areas known as “State Responsibility Areas.”
Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for CalFire, said the money will allow CalFire to have a stable source of revenue for fire prevention. CalFire’s budget has been trimmed by $80 million over the past year and a half, he noted.
The new fee has raised the ire of many. Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon, Napa’s representative to the Regional Council of Rural Counties, has voiced her strong objections, saying that residents in unincorporated Napa County already pay for fire protection.
Among those affected are low-income mobile home residents and seniors on fixed incomes, Dillon said.
“It might not seem like much, but it’s another 10 bucks a month,” she said.
Longtime Berryessa Highlands resident Tracy Renee questioned why rural property owners — instead of every citizen in the state — are singled out to pay the fee. Large fires on state and federal lands occur on lands that belong to all the people, she said.
It will be an additional financial hardship on residents, she said, noting that her homeowner’s insurance has increased by more than $1,000 a year.
“It’s just one more thing,” Renee said. “It’s just one more expense.
“Everybody is going to be nickeled-and-dimed to death,” she added. “It just goes and goes and goes.”
In addition to the new fire fee, residents at Lake Berryessa are also facing steep water and sewer assessments to pay for costly water and sewer system upgrades.
John Hallman, a Berryessa Estates resident, noted that his neighbors are continuing to lose their homes to foreclosure.
“Their families end up splitting up. It’s very hard on people. Right now is not the time to burden people with more taxation,” he said.
If the fee is assessed, the revenue needs to come back to the community for fire protection, Hallman said. The biggest need is fuel reduction, he said. “I don’t think we can rely on grant funding.”
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has opposed the charge, which it calls a tax, according to press statements.
The first bills, which are being sent to counties alphabetically, will be sent this week to residents in Alameda, Alpine and Amador counties, according to CalFire. Rural Napa County residents will first receive a notice the bill is coming.