Our View: Fire-fee-fits-all approach hurts proactive districts
We are all for landowners being required to pay property taxes or special district fees for the services they receive from the government.
But Yuba County landowners, and others living in areas served by CalFire, have a valid point when questioning a state fee imposed for fire-prevention efforts.
The fee, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in July 2011, charges landowners in areas under state fire protection up to $150 a year for each habitable structure. Many of those landowners also pay $115 in fees to a fire district.
The additional charge is meant to be used to pay for fire prevention programs such as clearing brush and making firebreaks; funds raised from the fee can't be used to fight fires like those that ravaged the North State last summer.
The fee has drawn the ire of landowners and politicians, claiming it amounts to double-billing in areas where local fire districts already have prevention programs. In those areas, including fire districts in Yuba County, the fee isn't necessary, opponents claim.
Others, including Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Loma Rica, maintain the fee was imposed by Brown without a required two-thirds approval by the Legislature. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed a lawsuit challenging its validity.
We agree the new fee seems to put an unnecessary burden on those landowners who already pay fees to local fire protection districts. Instead of a one-fee-fits-all program, why not set reasonable standards for local fire prevention programs and waive the fee for landowners in areas where local districts meet those standards?
Yuba County has for the most part been spared the large wildfires that have devastated other areas of the state. A large part of that has to be due to local prevention efforts. Why penalize landowners and fire districts if they are already doing a good job?
It's vital that planners keep tabs on where Beale folks want to live
Beale Air Force Base is a great economic driver for Yuba-Sutter.
We want the more than 5,300 military and civilian employees at the base spending money here, raising families here and calling Yuba-Sutter home. And most apparently do all of that, based on numbers recently released by Beale showing 65 percent of those who worked at the base in 2012 lived here.
But there are signs that things might be changing — that growing commercial outlets and amenities, and newer housing in the Lincoln and Rocklin areas of Placer County might be an enticement for Beale personnel.
Nearly 20 percent of those who work at the base lived in Placer County last year, according to the figures released by Beale.
And, though the base wouldn't provide specific numbers, a study in December and January found 400 more vehicles went through the Wheatland gate, serving Placer County, then went through the Schneider gate at North Beale Road. To accommodate the heavier traffic, Beale officials last month announced they are keeping the Wheatland gate open 24 hours a day where it used to be open only during daylight hours. Conversely, the Schneider gate is no longer open 24 hours a day.
Obviously, nobody should try to tell those working at Beale where they should live. But the shift in traffic patterns is one that planners and local elected officials need to keep in mind when considering proposals for new residential or commercial development.
There is a big value to our community derived from Beale personnel being part of the Yuba-Sutter community — going shopping, sending their children to local schools and even choosing to locate here after their time in the service.
For Yuba-Sutter to continue to be the home of choice for a majority of Beale personnel, housing and commercial development needs to be at the forefront in planning for the future.