9/26/12 In My Opinion
Tea Party and Fire Fees
Recently I had the opportunity to talk briefly with a woman who is a member of the Graeagle Tea Party. She had just come from a meeting where they were discussing the implementation of the State Fire Fee -see here Fire Prevention Fee . The woman was adamant in believing the fee was illegal and they were being taxed for something they received no service for. I argued that if one lived within the bounds of a Fire District then the fee did not apply. After doing some research on the issue, I found that I was not entirely correct on the matter.
If you are in a State Responsibility Area (SRA) and also within a Fire District where you pay a fire protection tax, the state fee is reduced by $35 and instead of the $150 fee per habitable structure a year it becomes $115, and you do pay the fee.
The Tea Party believes this is an illegal fee/tax and in violation of Prop 13. Sierra County is an SRA and so pretty much everyone who lives here and owns property with a habitable structure will have a bill from the State Board of Equalization for the fee. I can see why some property owners would object to this fee.
I don’t, and here is why. Anyone living in a rural area and has experienced a wild fire understands the process. It isn’t just the local engines and fire fighters that respond to a fire, agencies, big and small from cities, counties and states respond to fires. Your house in Sierra County may have an engine from San Diego stationed nearby. It costs a lot of money. Money that use to come from the state general fund. But now we have Propositions, budget crisis, economy downfalls, and a myriad of reasons as to why those general funds have dried up. During a fire we need as much response as possible as quickly as possible. Someone living in a rural area, even within a developed housing area need protection, much more protection, than one or two engines and a water tender.
The argument we don’t have the service so why do we have to pay for it, doesn’t hold water. The service is there and when we need it, we will have it, but we have to step up to the table and make sure we help make it be there. $150 a year, that equates to $12.50 a month or .41 cents a day. Is it worth it? You bet it is, ask anyone who lived in Sierra Brooks during the Cottonwood Fire. I was over there on an engine from Sierra City as a firefighter. The statewide support and response we had was truly amazing. The fire raged right up to the edge of the sub-division, there were engines from all over California and even New Mexico and we did not lose one stucture. It was no fun, but well worth .41 cents a day.
Taxes in general are a good thing. We pay taxes every day for things we don’t use. I support Bart in the Bay Area, help run Amtrack, build roads for Greyhound to run their routes. Do I use them? Not really, but I’m glad they are there and on occasion I may take a train or bus. I’m glad to pay taxes, it means I have enough to be able to pay taxes. Taxes are what helps our economy run. A government worker buys groceries, goes on trips, buys clothing, my taxes are creating jobs, I build roads and sidewalks and bridges and dams by providing jobs for construction workers with my taxes. It is the patriotic American thing to pay taxes and pony up the fees so that America remains the shining star on the globe. Don’t complain about taxes be happy you can pay them.