Sonoma County rural residents decry state fire fee

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 rural homeowners $150 a year, with a $35 discount for those who pay an assessment to a local fire district.

The state Board of Equalization will issue bills for the fee next year, no later than July 1.

"It seems like double taxation," said Craig Harrison, president of the Bennett Valley Community Association. "One more tax disguised as a user fee coming down the pike."

Harrison pays $170 a year to the Bennett Valley Fire Department, one of 17 fire districts supported by parcel taxes in Sonoma County.

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