KEY LARGO -- The Key Largo Fire-EMS District board unanimously approved a 2012-13 property tax rate of $79 for every $100,000 in property value -- up just 10 cents from this year.
The budget passed despite some worries over whether the rate was too low to cover next year's operations.
"Are we screwing ourselves for next year?" board member Jennifer Miller asked the board's accountant.
"I think we're going to be OK," Peter Rosasco said. "We just can't go any lower."
The board is leaving $523,262 in cash reserves, according to Jennifer Zimmer, of the Bishop Rosasco Co accounting firm. She said $219,915 is unassigned, while $303,347 is committed to vehicle and equipment replacements.
The district holds contracts for service with the Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue Department and Key Largo Ambulance Corps and must approve their annual budgets.
According to Zimmer, the fire department's 2012-13 budget is just over $1.17 million and the ambulance corps' sits at about $612,000.
"We need to keep the taxes as low as we can for the residents," said board member Tom Tharp, who has called for purchasing a cheaper fire truck next year as a way of reducing spending by the fire department.
"I just don't want to put ourselves in a bad position for next year," Miller said.
"Hey, if people want to come out and [complain], let them move to Tavernier," board member Mark Wheaton said. "We're giving them the best bang for the buck."
The district's tax rate remains lower than that paid by residents in other part of unincorporated Monroe County.
Wheaton, however, wanted to make sure that the ambulance corps' building would be getting a new paint job.
"We're spending all this money and the building looks like hell," he said.
In other news, Key Largo Fire Chief Sergio Garcia noted that his department's response time has lowered the insurance rating for the area, thereby saving taxpayer dollars with lower premiums.
The board also asked Wheaton, Garcia and firefighter James Griffith to serve on the fire truck search committee.