KEY LARGO -- The newly-created Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department is asking for a 3 percent across-the-board raise.
So far, the new department's operating budget of $1.08 million appears to be about $100,000 less than last year's budget for the ousted Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue Department, according to draft budget documents.
Savings appears to come from reductions in travel expenses and phone services.
The department was expected to pitch its budget at a workshop held by the Key Largo Fire-EMS District Monday, July 8. Results from that meeting were not available by press time.
The district taxes Key Largo residents and uses those funds to contract for fire, rescue and emergency medical services.
Ambulance Chief Don Bock, who is also running the new fire department, recently asked for a 3 percent raise for the Ambulance Corps, something he lobbied unsuccessfully for last year.
Fire-EMS Board member Bob Thomas told the Free Press last week that he is willing to support the increase in pay.
Thomas spearheaded the effort to terminate the district's contract with the long-serving Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue Department and form a new fire department under the direction of the Ambulance Corps.
Bock has declined $24,000 in additional pay from the district to lead the fire department.
The new department, which to date has few funds, took over fire service on Memorial Day. A solicitation letter from the former department was mailed to Key Largo residents after its contract expired, which has confused the donation process.
The district is expected once again to set the tentative property tax rate at $100 for every $100,000 of assessed property value.
Early in the budget process, the district typically sets the property tax rate at the maximum amount allowed before working its way down to a lower final rate. Budget hearings are also set for Sept. 9 and Sept. 16.
Also planned for discussion Monday night was an update on whether the former fire department had turned over equipment owned by the district.
Last month, the district sent letters to the old department, including President Frank Conklin and former chief Sergio Garcia asking them to identify and return district equipment, including radios and lights from Garcia's fire chief vehicle.
At press time, the former department had yet to comply with the district's request.