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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Property owners across Rancho Cordova are finally getting their refund checks after a Call Kurtis investigation uncovered a fire district planned to not return $1.3 million in taxes collected illegally.
About 3,800 Rancho Cordova property owners were forced to pay an annual $100 fire tax that an audit determined did not apply to them. But Sacramento Metro Fire did not plan to refund property owners more than a million dollars, as a Call Kurtis investigation revealed in March.
While Metro Fire offered to refund taxes from 2009-2013, it failed to mention the taxes had been assessed since 2005. About $1.3 million dollars was collected prior to 2009.
The agency was not happy with our Call Kurtis investigation, which inspired a state bill to authorize those refunds. Now some residents will be getting as much as $400 back, in addition to the up to $400 many residents already received.
“[I’m thankful, amazed, surprised,” said Michael Darrett, who first alerted Call Kurtis to the matter in February 2014. “[I’m] happy for my fellow neighbors.”
After four months fighting for his money, Darrett finally got his $100 refund check, bringing his total refund to $500.
Metro Fire wrongly collected more than $3 million in total since 2005, even though the property owners were outside the fire district.
The agency told Call Kurtis in March it couldn’t return money collected more than four years ago, under state law.
“You’re telling me you can’t legally return money that you never should have taken in the first place?” Ming asked Deputy Chief Chris Holbrook.
“Yes, according to legal counsel the statute of limitation is four years,” Holbrook said.
But during our investigation we uncovered an emergency bill could get around that.
State Assemblyman Ken Cooley wrote a bill which was signed by the Gov. Jerry Brown in June. According to Sacramento Metro Fire, homeowners will get full refunds once they fill out the original claim form, which is not available on the Metro Fire website, but we’ve posted for download here on CBSSacramento.com.
Property owners who already filled out this form will receive their additional refunds automatically.
“It’s what should have happened to begin with,” said homeowner Andy Payne, who showed Call Kurtis she should receive the full $800 in her fire tax refund.
Darrett is glad to have his money back.
“Without you guys to air the story, this pressure wouldn’t have been applied,” he said.
Metro Fire has repeatedly ignored further requests for comment from Call Kurtis, including two voicemails and six emails asking for information about the refunds.
Call Kurtis also reached out to Metro Fire Chief Kurt Henke twice, who has not responded to our messages.
CBS 13 has submitted a formal California Public Records Act request with the agency to determine how much money has been returned to property owners.
People who already filed claims are getting the rest of their money sent out automatically. if you still haven’t filled out the form, you can download it here in PDF format.
Under the law that was passed, Metro Fire can issue full refunds until the end of 2014.
Free Refund Application Workshop
Assemblyman Ken Cooley, who authored the fire tax refund law, will host a community workshop to help residents apply for their refunds. It will take place tomorrow, July 8 at 6 p.m. at the Anatolia Clubhouse at 11828 Chrysanthy Blvd. in Rancho Cordova.