Navajo Nation leaders are opposing a bill in the Arizona Senate that would study the creation of a 16th Arizona county in the White Mountains. The tribe fears it could have grave impacts to public service and infrastructure funding. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
The bill introduced by Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers would allocate half-a-million dollars to study the economic impacts of altering the boundaries of Navajo and Apache counties to establish a new Sitgreaves County.
According to Navajo leaders, however, the change would put the Nation and the Hopi Tribe in a separate county from many non-reservation lands. They say the result would decrease the tax base that provides funding for county roads, waste management and emergency and other services. Tribal officials say since reservation lands are held in trust by the federal government they’re not subject to property taxes.
Navajo President Jonathan Nez says the proposal would open the door to segregation of the tribes leading to further inequality.
Proponents of a new Sitgreaves County say it’s not anti-Indigenous and aimed at improving the economy in northeastern Arizona. They contend there would be an equitable amount of non-tribal taxable property in all three area counties.