Increase will provide new funding for fire, rescue services

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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation will increase its sales tax on July 1 to provide additional funding the Navajo Nation Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

The Navajo Nation Council voted in January to approve the tax increase, which will raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent. The hike is designed to generate revenue to help the department pay for operations, personnel, equipment and training.

The Navajo Tax Commission concurred with the council's decision on May 9.

The department operates fire stations in Shiprock, Newcomb and Ojo Amarillo, and in Chinle, Fort Defiance, Leupp, Twin Arrows, Tuba City and Window Rock in Arizona. Each station is operated by paid and volunteer firefighters, according to the department's website.

Fire Chief Larry Chee and Jesse Delmar, executive director of the Division of Public Safety, were unavailable for comment Friday.

A written statement from the department to the council states the sales tax increase would support department operations.

The department received approximately $1.4 million from the tribe's fiscal year 2018 budget.

When the tribe took over management of the Shiprock, Newcomb and Ojo Amarillo fire stations in October 2016 from San Juan County, the department did not see an increase to fund the additional stations, according to the department's statement.

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Notices about the increase were released this week by the Office of the Navajo Tax Commission.

The same day the tax commission office posted its notification online, a bill to amend the allocation for sales tax revenue was posted on the council's website.

The bill, sponsored by Delegate Seth Damon, proposes to amend the amount of sales tax revenue distributed to the tribe's general fund, the Judicial and Public Safety Facilities Fund, the Scholarship Fund and the Economic Development Fund.

Damon's bill would add the Fire and Rescue Services Fund to the distribution list and set the percentage it would receive from the sales tax revenue.

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If the bill is approved by the council, the changes would go into effect on Oct. 1.

Martin Ashley, executive director for the tax commission office, said his office recommended the new distribution amounts start Oct. 1 to coincide with the start of fiscal year 2019.

The last time the tribe increased its sales tax was on Jan. 1, 2013, according to the tax commission office.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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