In the next few days, thousands of residents in unincorporated Marin County will receive notice in the mail from the State of California about a $150 annual fee charged for fire prevention services.
The State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Prevention Benefit Fee is charged by the State Board of Equalization following action taken by the State Legislature in 2011. The fee was first imposed in August 2012.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors and the Marin County Fire Department opposed the legislation because the fee was not seen as beneficial to local fire protection efforts. The fee was not levied at a local level, so the Marin County Fire Department, Marin County Assessor and Tax Collector cannot reverse or adjust the fee.
The fee is $150 per habitual structure in Marin’s SRAs, which amounts to 205,000 acres mostly in unincorporated areas west of the densely populated Highway 101 corridor and east of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Homeowners in designated SRAs must pay the fee regardless of whether the property is within an existing fire district.
In 2012, there were 15,317 living units within the Marin SRAs. Factoring in a $35 reduction for properties protected by an organized fire agency, just less than $2 million will be collected from Marin landowners this year.
The fee was created by Assembly Bill 29 and approved in the First Extraordinary Session of the Legislature, then subsequently signed into law in Chapter 741 of the Statutes for 2011. As a fee, the Legislature circumvented the two-thirds affirmative vote required to levy a tax.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, aka CAL-Fire, the intention of the fee is to offset its contract from the State General Fund. There is no plan in place to provide funding to fire agencies within Marin specifically for wildland fire protection. As one of six contract county fire departments in the state, the Marin County Fire Department is eligible to receive a small portion of the allocated money.
Does your property fall within the SRA?
This link will take you to an interactive map. Type in your address to see if your address falls within the highlighted SRA area.
Where can I find additional information about the SRA fee?