Fire mitigation fee rates remain unchanged for 2019-20, approved by county supervisors

Courtesy illustration.

The fire mitigation fee rates paid by developers to fund the cost of fire department facilities serving the new development will remain unchanged for the next year.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 March 26, with Greg Cox at a National Association of Counties meeting, to accept the Fire Mitigation Fee Review Committee’s annual report and find that the 19 participating fire agencies were in conformance with the County Fire Mitigation Fee Ordinance for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

“Glad the board approved everything,” said San Diego County Regional Fire Authority director Herman Reddick.

The county established the Fire Mitigation Fee Program in 1986 to provide funding for fire protection and emergency medical services in the unincorporated communities. Although local fire agencies lack the legal authority to impose mitigation fees on new development, the county collects a fee from building permit applicants on behalf of 17 independent fire protection districts and one county service area with fire protection responsibility (not including County Service Area No. 115, which served Pepper Grove and had 2017-18 revenue Grove but was dissolved in November 2018 with the San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District and the Lakeside Fire Protection District taking over responsibility). 

The mitigation fees are distributed quarterly to agency accounts and must be used for capital projects or to purchase firefighting equipment or supplies which will serve new developments.

The Fire Mitigation Fee Review Committee reviews the annual reports of the participating agencies to confirm that the improvements are necessary to serve new development.  The committee members consist of two fire chiefs (currently Bill Paskle of the Alpine Fire Protection District and Fred Cox of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District), one elected director of a fire protection district (currently Ken Munson of the North County Fire Protection District), one County Service Area staff member (currently Susan Quasarano), one San Diego County Fire Authority staff member (currently Kelsey Chesnut), and one representative apiece from the Building Industry Association (currently Matt Adams), the San Diego County Farm Bureau (currently executive director Eric Larson), and the county’s Planning Commission (currently David Pallinger).
The County Fire Mitigation Fee Ordinance allows fee ceilings to be increased or decreased in proportion to changes in the Cost of Construction Index. 

The ordinance also requires an evaluation of the base fee every five years based upon dividing the average cost in current dollars to construct a fully-equipped fire station within the county’s unincorporated area by the average square footage of structures served by that average fire station. That result becomes the new base fee and was last adjusted in October 2014.

“There’s no change in fees,” Reddick said.

During Fiscal Year 2017-18 the San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District received $106,790.80 of Fire Mitigation Fee Program revenue, the Lakeside Fire Protection District obtained $84,621.72, and CSA No. 115 developers paid $4,167.00.
Because the funding is used for capital improvements, it is not required to be spent in a particular fiscal year. 

The Fiscal Year 2019-20 planned capital expenditures approved by the Fire Mitigation Fee Review Committee include debt service payback and relocation of the Bostonia fire station for the San Miguel district and debt service payback for the Lakeside district.