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Analysis: This summer, state lawmakers approved a fire prevention fee for homeowners in areas like San Diego’s backcountry where the state oversees firefighting. The law allows the state to charge residents up to $150 per household annually. The money is supposed to pay for fire inspections, research and grants to support projects like clearing brush.
The fee infuriated tax advocates across the state and representatives of rural areas, spurring lawsuit threats and rekindling battles over the role of state and local government. Jacob, who represents the East County, took her criticism to San Diego’s airwaves.
“Many of these people in state responsibility areas are already paying additional assessment, some of them as much as $400 a year,” Jacob told KPBS.
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She argued that it’s unfair to charge residents more when they already pay hundreds of dollars in specialized taxes to boost local fire protection. Jacob told KPBS her comparison referred to Crest, an unincorporated community of about 2,500 people east of El Cajon that lost more than 300 homes in the 2003 wildfires.
In the past three decades, voters have approved three fees to boost fire and emergency funding in Crest. The latest came in 2007. But similar efforts across the region have failed to gain traction. In 2008, for example, countywide voters narrowly rejected a parcel tax aimed at raising $50 million annually for fire protection.
While Crest residents pay three separate fees for fire protection, other nearby rural areas pay two. When stacked together, the owner of a single family home in Crest will pay $382 this year, slightly below Jacob’s mark, but within the ballpark.
With the new fee, a Crest resident could’ve paid another $150. But on Monday, a state board charged with overseeing the fee agreed to lower it to $90 per household and created a $45 discount for residents living in areas like Crest that already pay fire protection assessments. Households can receive other discounts if they meet certain safety standards.
Jacob was on vacation Wednesday and unavailable to comment on the board’s decisions, but the argument she used last month to fight the new fee is accurate. Some San Diego County homeowners, like those in Crest, already pay up to about $400 a year.
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