PINETOP-LAKESIDE – White Mountain Democrats voted unanimously January 9 to oppose creating a new Sitgreaves County from the southern portions of Apache and Navajo Counties.
To consider the issue, Democrats looked at the taxes for the apartment occupied by Jesse Valencia, the proponent of the new county.
The condo in The Pines south of Show Low pays $534.80 in property taxes per year, but only $41.85 of that amount is allocated to Navajo County, according to official records. Most of the property tax payment goes to Blue Ridge schools and Timber Mesa Fire and Medical.
“If he wants to use that $41.85 to set up a new county and expects to have a lot of money left over for lowering taxes, he’s not looking at it correctly,” said Eric Kramer, Navajo County Democratic Chairman.
Participants at the meeting pointed out some of the costs of setting up a new sheriff’s department, including vehicles, radios, guns, handcuffs, salaries, a jail, etc. When all the departments of county government are considered, the cost would go far beyond the $41.85 in taxes paid for this dwelling as well as other homes in the proposed county.
Valencia was scheduled to speak at the meeting at the Pinetop-Lakeside Town Hall, but was a no-show.
“The movement complains about taxation without representation, but Valencia’s neighborhood is represented by Steve Williams, who is an exceptionally hard-working and capable public servant — though a Republican,” Kramer said.
Navajo County actually spends no off-reservation property tax money on the reservations,” Kramer said. “The county gets money from multiple sources, including sales taxes and gasoline taxes. Reservation residents pay these taxes and are included as county residents in the formulas for distribution of this money from the state to the counties.”
“The concern that three of the five members of the Board of Supervisors are Native Americans is unfounded, particularly in the case of Jesse Thompson and Dawnafe Whitesinger,” he added. “Whitesinger lives in Pinetop-Lakeside and Thompson has a strong relationship with Winslow. Trying to remove them from political influence strictly on the basis of race would violate the Arizona Constitution, the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. It would give the county and state a bad name and result in costly and losing litigation.”
“Though voters narrowly rejected the proposed jail district, we need to figure out a way to support the two counties we have to maintain our deputies and other essential county services,” Kramer said.