Sonoma County rural residents and fire chiefs, along with some state lawmakers, are protesting a new fire fee intended to raise an estimated $80 million statewide. Approved last week by an obscure state board, the fee sought by Gov. Jerry Brown will cost 32,000 rural homeowners in Sonoma Count $150 a year, with a $35 discount for those who pay an assessment to a local fire district. “It seems like double taxation,” said Craig Harrison, president of the Bennett Valley Community Association.
As part of the state budget, the Legislature imposed new fees on rural landowners to fund fire protection services. There’s only one problem, according to Sonoma County fire chiefs Randy Collins and Dan Northern: Many rural residents are now paying twice for services they are already receiving from their local fire department. They say the new fees threaten local fire districts.