WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Council approved legislation Jan. 25 which seeks to reallocate approximately 17 percent of the Navajo Nation Sales Tax non-retail and retail revenue to the Navajo Nation Department of Fire and Rescue Services.
Council Delegate Benjamin L. Bennett (Crystal, Fort Defiance, Red Lake, Sawmill), who co-sponsored the bill, urged his council colleagues to support the reallocation of the sales tax revenue to the fire and rescue services to better protect individuals and communities.
“I strongly urge the council to support and invest in the Nation’s Fire and Rescue Services,” Bennett said. “Currently, the Navajo Nation does not have nation-wide fire protection. The allocation would financially assist the fire department to operate and deliver services on the Nation’s 27,000-square miles land base.”
The current sales tax rate is five percent, which applies to all gross receipts for goods or services sold on the Navajo Nation.
According to the legislation, the amendment to Title 24 620 of N.N.C. would allow the net revenue, after the allocation of set-aside funds, from the sales tax to be disbursed as follows:
50 percent of the non-retail revenue collected shall be deposited into the Navajo Nation’s general fund;
50 percent of the retail revenue collected shall be deposited into the chapter general fund;
Approximately 17 percent of the non-retail/retail revenue collected shall be deposited into the judicial/public safety fund;
Approximately eight-percent of the non-retail/retail revenue collected shall be deposited into the scholarship fund;
Approximately eight percent of the non-retail/retail revenue collected shall be deposited to the economic development fund; and
Approximately 17 percent of the non-retail/retail revenue collected shall be deposited into the Navajo Nation Fire and Rescue Services fund to be appropriated pursuant to a fund management plan approved by the Budget and Finance Committee.
Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie (Churchrock, Iyanbito, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, Smith Lake, Thoreau), said the sales tax revenue allocation to the Fire and Rescue Services fund would allow the fire department to address and improve fire protection throughout the Nation.
“During budget sessions, the fire department receives pennies to operate, but the allocation would significantly assist them to provide quality services,” said Yazzie, who chairs the Law and Order chairs the Law and Order Committee.
Department of Fire and Rescue Services Fire Chief Larry Chee said the department operates 24/7 to provide fire protection, education and medical services, however, the biggest challenge is inadequate funding for personnel, personnel training, equipment and community education.
During the debate, Council Delegate Leonard H. Pete (Chinle) said fire protection is essential for economic development and growth.
“The Nation cannot push and support economic development without fire protection. Navajo communities are growing and they need fire protection. This should be a priority before any development,” Pete said.
The Navajo Nation Council approved Legislation No. 0356-17 with a vote of 16-0. The president will have 10 calendar days to consider the resolution once it is delivered to the Office of the President and Vice President.