Council responds to Nutter's call to drop DROP

PHILADELPHIA - September 16, 2010

With everything from towing wars and pension plans - to rolling firehouse brownouts and Marcellus shale drilling - on the agenda, there's no doubt that the taxpayers will be paying very close attention to how it all shakes out.

The big issue that looms over this body is Mayor Michael Nutter's demand to kill off the controversial DROP program.

Nutter released a study last month saying DROP has cost taxpayers $258 million and counting since 1999.

"The city can no longer afford this program, citizens are outraged by its cost and some of the things that have happened with the program. It's time for action," Mayor Nutter said.

Council leadership seems to be in no rush. It is waiting for a legal opinion and wants its own study of the mayor's study.

That could take at least a month.

"I think some figures in the report are questionable," said Council President Anna Verna.

"I think council has a responsibility to look at all legislation in an in-depth way and not rush to judgment," said Councilwoman Marian Tasco.

Taxpayers may not like DROP but city workers do. It is a perk that allows some to collect lump sum pension payments and continue working.

Six city council members are currently in the plan including Verna and Tasco.

Councilman Jim Kenney, who is not in DROP, thinks politicians using the perk sends a terrible message.

"I think when elected officials got in it it skewed people's view in an environment where 401(k)'s have tanked, pension funds have tanked," Kenney said.

Whatever the cost, DROP has never delivered on its original promise - to help the city better manage the transition around the retirement of highly skilled workers.

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