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Groves plans for 2% cost-of-living adjustment, maybe as high as 3%

The city of Groves is planning for a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees in the proposed 2019-2020 budget, though the city would like to try for 3 percent thanks to some good news about the new health, dental and vision insurance plan adopted at this week’s council meeting.

The city voted to switch health insurance plans from TML Health to United Healthcare, which will save the city about $94,000 from lower rates.

“Currently under health insurance, the city pays $1,075,272,” city manager D. Sosa said. “With the new carrier, we’re going to have a plan with better rates, better coverage, a little bit less coming out of employees’ pockets. The new rates will be $981,000.”

Groves also saw another year of increasing property values, mainly through new residential and commercial construction, adding over $56 million in additional value for a total of $778,091,705 budgeted for 2020. That is up from a slump of $721,402,285 from the previous year, a decrease caused by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey after the city had experienced four straight years of increases.

“This one-year increase is equivalent to the total of the last four years combined,” Sosa said. “That’s good news. We’re seeing a lot of growth and we’re seeing values go up.”

City revenues have also increased from the previous year by $460,446 to a total of $10,687,200 for 2019/2020, thanks to the new values, higher sales tax estimates and franchise fee transfers.

Sosa is also asking councilmembers to approve a bump in rates to 76.16 cents, up from the current tax rate of 76 cents, which would cost taxpayers $1.60 per $100,000 of property value per year; 68.8 cents from the tax would go to the General Fund while the remaining 7.36 cents would be used for debt retirement.

The General Fund is expected to cost an additional $460,446, due mostly to the cost-of-living adjustment and an additional $100,000 allocated for street programs and $170,000 for capital outlay.

In other business, the Groves council voted to award Republic Services a contract to manage solid waste disposal for the city. Rates for residents are expected to stay the same at $19.96 per month. Groves is also looking to purchase a new trash truck at a cost of $200,000.

“The trash trucks that we have now, they have all been in service since Rita and they’ve all been in service over the last six tropical storms,” Sosa said.

The city also voted to approve an ordinance to permit a cell tower to be placed at 3410 Pure Atlantic Road.

The regularly scheduled City Council meeting for Sept. 2 has been canceled in observance of Labor Day.