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WHAT IS A BENEFIT ASSESSMENT?
Benefit assessments are used by local governments to pay the costs of providing fire suppression, flood control and other services to a particular community. These charges are based on the concept of assessing only those properties that directly benefit from the services or improvements financed. Because these charges are based on specific benefit, they are not subject to Proposition 13 limitations.
Common Types of Benefit Assessments
There are several types of benefit assessments that commonly appear on property tax bills. These assessments allow counties, cities and other agencies to finance the costs of needed services by assessing area property owners. Specific types of benefit assessments include: Fire suppression assessments, flood control assessments, storm drain assessments, water assessments, sewer assessments and sanitation assessments.
How is a Benefit Assessment Created
Prior to creating a new assessment, the city, county or special district must generate a detailed professional engineer’s report outlining the proposed area, proposed project costs, annual cost to each property and the benefit formula used to determine each property’s share of the cost. Then all owners of property within the proposed assessment district must be mailed a detailed notice of public hearing and a ballot with which to voice their approval or disapproval of the proposed district at least 45 days of the hearing. At the hearing, the governing body of the agency must consider all protests to formation of the district. Assessment district proceedings must be abandoned if a majority of the ballots received by the conclusion of the hearing protest creation of the district. Ballots are weighted according to the proportional risk assigned to the property. If the District is approved, the assessment is created and will be billed on the property tax bills each year.
Once an assessment is created, it may be repealed or reduced by popular initiative.
SRA FP FEE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Below are answers to a list of common questions related to the SRA Fire Prevention Fee.
What is the Fire Prevention Fee?
Assembly Bill X1 29 was approved by the California Legislature on June 15, 2011 and signed into law on
July 7, 2011. The law established a new annual Fire Prevention Fee to pay for fire prevention services
within the State Responsibility Area (SRA). The Fire Prevention Fee is an annual fee assessed on owners
of habitable structures on property located within the SRA. The SRA is the area of the State where the
State of California is financially responsible for the prevention and suppression of wildfires. The SRA
does not include lands within incorporated city boundaries or federally owned lands.
Who is responsible for paying the fee?
The person or agency responsible for paying the fee is the owner of record of a habitable structure as of
July 1, on the county assessor rolls, or as recorded by the California Department of Housing and
Community Development on July 1 of the state fiscal year in which the fee is due. This is the case
regardless of whether the owner of record changes during the course of the fiscal year.
What is the State Responsibility Area (SRA)?
The State Responsibility Area includes state and privately‐owned forest, watershed, and rangeland
where the State of California has primary financial responsibility for the prevention and suppression of
wildfires. SRA does not include lands within city boundaries or in federal ownership. SRA is determined
under regulations of the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Board). The SRA definition can be found
in Public Resources Code (PRC) 4126.
SRA forms one large area (over 31 million acres) to which CAL FIRE provides a basic level of fire
prevention and protection services. Many areas receive augmented fire protection from local fire
What is a habitable structure?
A “habitable structure” is a building that contains one or more dwelling units or that can be occupied for
residential use. Such structures provide independent living facilities for one or more persons, including
provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. Examples would include single family
homes, multi‐dwelling structures, mobile and manufactured homes, and condominiums. Habitable
structures do NOT include incidental buildings such as detached garages, barns, outdoor sanitation
facilities, and sheds.
What about condominiums?
In a condominium complex, each owner has a separate parcel and would be assessed $152.33 per
condominium, with a reduction of $35 per condominium if it is also within the boundaries of a local fire
What about apartments?
In an apartment complex, the fee is $152.33 per apartment building (not per apartment unit), and with a
reduction of $35 per apartment building if it is also within the boundaries of a local fire protection
I own a mobile or manufactured home. What do I do if I receive more than one bill when I only have
Only habitable structures, including mobile or manufactured homes, are assessed the fee, so
homeowners who inadvertently receive two bills when they only have one mobile home are only
required to pay one of the billings. A petition for redetermination should be submitted for the other
billing WITHOUT making payment, but make sure to include the account number of both bills on all
correspondence. If a fee is paid while concurrently submitting a petition for redetermination, payments
made that are determined to be not due will be refunded.
What about other structures?
The current law does not provide for the fees to be charged to non‐habitable structures such as
businesses and offices. Also, incidental structures without living areas such as detached garages, barns,
woodsheds and outbuildings are not assessed the fee.
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
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.
What is the amount of the fee?
The fee is currently at $152.33 per habitable structure located within the SRA, and is set by the Board of
Forestry and Fire Protection. If the habitable structure is within the boundaries of a local agency that
provides fire protection services, the owner will receive a $35.00 reduction for each habitable structure.
Approximately 95‐98% of habitable structures in the SRA are covered by a local fire protection agency,
resulting in most bills amounting to $117.33 per habitable structure.
Why did the amount of the fee increase this year?
Assembly bill X1 29 requires the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection to adjust the fee to reflect the
percentage of change in the annual average value of the Implicit Price Deflator (IPD) on July 1, 2013, and
annually thereafter. So what this means is the fee is required to be adjusted annually by state law. This
year’s adjustment amounts to $2.33.
What if I cannot afford to pay the entire bill? Can I make payments?
The Board of Equalization offers a number of options to pay your bill. To find out more information,
please see their website at http://www.boe.ca.gov/sptaxprog/fire_prev_fee.htm or call them at 1‐800‐
400‐7115 Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Pacific Time (excluding State holidays) to
get more details.
Please see the Board of Equalization’s website for questions about paying your fire fee liability at
What does the fee pay for?
This fee funds a variety of important fire prevention services in the SRA. Such activities include fuel
reduction activities that lessen the risk of wildfire to communities and evacuation routes. Other
activities include defensible space inspections, fire prevention engineering, emergency evacuation
planning, fire prevention education, fire hazard severity mapping, implementation of the State and local
Fire Plans and fire‐related law enforcement activities such as arson investigation.
How do I find out if my structure is within the SRA?
Visit the “State Responsibility Area Viewer” webpage.
Where will the money collected by the fee be used?
SRA forms one large area across California in which CAL FIRE provides a basic level of fire prevention
services. Therefore, the funds will be expended on services and activities throughout the SRA.
Under what authority is this fee being charged?
In 2011, Assembly Bill AB X1 29 passed and established this fee. The California State Board of Forestry
and Fire Protection was required to enact regulations to implement the fee. The Fire Prevention Fee is
codified in law in the Public Resources Code 4210 et.seq. The Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has
/approved_sra_fee_language_march‐2013.pdf) further defining the fee, how it is collected, and how it
can be appealed.
Why is this fee being charged now to habitable structure owners in the SRA?
ABX1 29, provides the following legislative findings:
The presence of structures within SRA can pose an increased risk of fire ignition and an
increased potential for fire damage within the state’s wildlands and watersheds.
The presence of structures within SRA can also impair wildland firefighting techniques
and could result in greater damage to state resources caused by wildfires.
The costs of fire prevention activities aimed at reducing the effects of structures upon
State fire protection responsibilities in SRA should be borne by the owners of these
Individual owners of structures within SRA receive a disproportionately larger benefit
from fire prevention activities than that realized by the state’s citizens generally.
It is necessary to impose a fire prevention fee upon individual owners of structures in
SRA to fund fire prevention activities in those areas from which such owners derive a
What if I am already protected by another fire agency?
Owners of habitable structures within the SRA and also within the boundaries of a local agency that
provides fire protection services receive a reduction of $35 per habitable structure.
I already pay for local fire protection, why do I need to pay this fee as well?
The law determines that the fee should be charged to the owners of habitable structures in the SRA in
part because such habitable structure owners receive a disproportionately larger benefit from fire
prevention services in SRA. Historically, locally‐funded fire protection services have arisen because
residents want an increased level of fire protection services beyond those provided directly by CAL FIRE.
Locally‐funded fire protection services typically include elements of fire prevention. However, these are
in addition to services provided by CAL FIRE across the entire SRA. The Fire Prevention Fee was
established to fund some of the state fire services provided by CAL FIRE that directly benefit owners of
structures in SRA.
How frequently are fees owed?
The fee is assessed annually on a fiscal year basis (July 1 – June 30).
How will the fees be collected?
The law specifies that the Board of Equalization (BOE) will collect the fee. A billing notice will be mailed
to property owners in the SRA each year, much like vehicle registration renewals. As specified by law,
the BOE will collect the fee pursuant to the Fee Collection Procedures Law as found in Section 55001 et
seq of the California Revenue and Taxation Code.
When is the fee due?
The fee is due within 30 days of the date on the billing notice.
What will happen if I don’t pay the bill?
If you don’t pay the total amount of your Fire Prevention Fee bill within 30 days of the date on the billing
notice, the BOE will mail a late notice, which may include interest and penalties. The BOE may take
other actions in order to collect any unpaid fees. For further information or to make payment
arrangements, please visit the BOE website at www.boe.ca.gov or contact them directly at 1‐800‐400‐
Are there penalty or delinquency charges, if I do not pay the fee before the deadline?
Yes. If you do not pay your fee prior to its due date, an additional 10% penalty may be added to your bill.
In addition, interest may be added to the past due fee amount.
Why doesn’t my County Assessor collect these fees?
The legislature designated the BOE to collect these fees. The Fire Prevention Fee funds activities
statewide within all areas of the SRA.
I did not receive a bill, is a fee due from me now?
If you own a habitable structure in the SRA, you should receive a bill. The fee is not due until 30 days
after the date printed on your bill. Fiscal Year 2013‐14 bills are expected to be sent over a period of
about 4 months starting in March of 2014.
My address has changed. What should I do?
If you received a bill from the BOE addressed to your old address, you can provide your new address
with your bill payment. If you have moved since June 30, 2013 and think BOE may not have a current
address, please contact the BOE at 1‐800‐400‐7115 to notify them of your new address.
Can my fee be appealed?
The billing notice will include a phone number for property owners to call with questions and
instructions for how to file an appeal. Under the Fire Prevention Fee law, an appeal is called a “Petition
for Redetermination.” According to regulations of the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, fee payers
wishing to appeal the fee must file a petition for redetermination within 30 days of receiving their bill.
Based on its review of the petition for redetermination, the Department or its Designated Fee
Administrator may or may not make adjustments to the amount of the fee, modify or eliminate it. A
decision on the appeal must be made within 60 days of receipt of the petition. Typical reasons for an
appeal would be such things as the habitable structure not being located within SRA, incorrect
determination of the number of habitable structures, incorrect fire district inclusion, or other similar
How do I appeal this fee?
The person named on the bill may file an appeal by completing a Petition for Redetermination. You may
obtain the Petition for Redetermination form at www.firepreventionfee.org/Appeals. You can request
that a form be mailed to you by calling 1‐888‐310‐6447.
How much time do I have to make an appeal (file a Petition for Redetermination)?
Appeals (Petitions for Redetermination) must be filed with the Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection or its representative within 30 days from the date of the original notice of determination. If a
petition is sent by mail, it will be accepted if the post mark is within 30 days.
If I pay my fee and then appeal it (file a Petition for Redetermination), will my payment be refunded?
If you pay your fee and file a petition for redetermination, and it is determined the fee was charged in
error or should have been charged at a lower amount, the fee for your account will be corrected
accordingly. If the correction results in a credit balance on your account, the BOE will mail you a refund
for the credit amount.
I do not own the property for which the fee is due. How do I get this resolved?
The person responsible for paying the fee for the 2013‐14 fiscal year is the owner of record as of July 1,
2013 on the County Assessor rolls, or as recorded in the records of the California Department of Housing
and Community Development. This is the case regardless of whether the owner of record at that time is
still the property owner now. The July 1st date is used because that is the same date used for the
issuance of property tax bills. If you no longer own the property, you will not be subject to this fee for
that particular property in future years.
Consequently, if you are listed as the owner of the property on the County Tax records or State Housing
and Community Development Records as of July 1, 2013 you are subject to the fee, even if someone else
owns the property now. If you did not own the property then or never owned it, file a Petition for
Redetermination and indicate that this is the case. If it is subsequently determined that you are not
subject to the fee, the billing will be canceled and any refunds that are due will be made.
What is the basic law that describes SRA?
State law describes SRA in Sections 4125 – 4128 of the Public Resources Code. Specifically, Section 4126
says that SRA includes:
Lands covered wholly or in part by forests or by trees capable of producing forest
Lands covered wholly or in party by timber, brush, undergrowth, or grass, whether of
commercial value or not, which protect the soil from excessive erosion, retard runoff of
water, or accelerate water percolation, if such lands are sources of water which is
available for irrigation or for domestic or industrial use
Lands in areas which are principally used or useful for range or forage purposes, which
are contiguous to other lands so defined. It is important to understand that lands in SRA
are based on vegetative cover and natural resource values.
SRA includes state and privately‐owned forest, watershed, and rangeland for which the primary financial
responsibility of preventing and suppressing fires rests with the State. SRA does not include lands within
city boundaries or in federal ownership. The lands are determined under regulations of the Board of
Forestry and Fire Protection (Board). The SRA definition can be found in PRC 4126:
What do terms like “watershed” in the SRA law mean?
More precise information in determining which lands are in SRA are contained in a document entitled
State Responsibility Area Classification System adopted pursuant to rule of the State Board of Forestry
and Fire Protection. The Classification System delineates factors related to structural density, size of
agricultural parcels, and specific watershed characteristics.
My structure is not in the SRA, so am I still subject to the fee?
If you think that your property is not within the SRA, you can research the approximate location at
www.firepreventionfee.org/sra_viewer, or you can call the Fire Prevention Fee Service Center at 1‐888‐
310‐6447 and request that a Petition for Redetermination form be mailed to you. Alternatively, you may
obtain the Petition for Redetermination form at www.firepreventionfee.org/Appeals. If it is
subsequently determined that your structure was not within the SRA as of July 1, 2013, the fee billing
will be canceled.
What kind of review will be done to see if my property can come out of SRA?
CAL FIRE conducts a statewide 5 year review of SRA maps as required by PRC 4125 to capture changes in
land use, such as conversion in or out of agriculture, areas of densification due to development, and
other relevant changes. SRA data are updated on a more frequent basis to capture annexations and
changes in federal ownership that affect SRA status. The last statewide review was completed in 2010.
The next statewide review is scheduled to be completed in 2015.
District Receives SAFER Grant to Re-Open Fire Station 75
Citizens of Rodeo and Hercules,
I am pleased to inform you that the Rodeo Hercules Fire District has been awarded a 2.5 million dollar FEMA SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grant). This return of tax dollars to fund local fire protection will be utilized to reopen Fire Station 75, located at 326 Third St. in the community of Rodeo. Engine 75 was an integral part of our public safety services, providing advanced life support and firefighting crews throughout the District.
With the help of local, state and federal officials we were able to secure funding for two (2) years. The grant selection process is merit based and we feel very fortunate to have been selected for this award.
While this opportunity will not repair our ongoing fiscal issues, it goes along way towards a solving the problem. The Fire District will continue to seek a permanent solution to maintain the highest levels of service to the community.
Thank you for your continued support,
STATION 75 to reopen in October 2014
2013 Firefighter of The Year Skye Johnson
On Saturday, February 22, 2014, the Pinole Rotary Club will honor Captain Skye Johnson as the District’s 2013 Firefighter of the Year. Captain Johnson began his career with the District in 2000. He became a Paramedic in 2005 and a Captain in 2013. The District is proud to honor Skye Johnson for his dedication to the fire service and to the communities it serves.