Council overrides Mayor, passes bill to amend DROP

City Council just unanimously voted to override Mayor Nutter's veto of a bill that will preserve the controversial DROP program, while reducing its cost.

Nutter has pushed Council to simply end the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, arguing that the city cannot afford the perk, estimated to have cost $100 million since 1999. But Council - which has seven members who are current or past DROP enrollees - chose to modify DROP in the spring.

"The bill that they passed is tinkering around the edges at best," Nutter said today. "The taxpayers can't afford it."

The legislation would delay entry into DROP for non-uniformed workers and would lower the earned interest rate for future participants. Council's consultant predicted the changes would carry a one-time cost of $15 million to $20 million.

Originally, this bill passed Council 14-3. But one of the no votes -- Councilman Jim Kenney -- noted today that sustaining the mayor's veto would be more costly than approving a modified DROP.

"If we vote to sustain the mayor’s veto then that bill is defeated and we would still have in place the original legislation," Kenney said. "So voting to sustain the mayor’s veto puts us in a worse situation than voting to override."

DROP allows city workers to set a retirement date up to four years in the future, at which point their pension benefit is frozen and they start accruing payments in an interest-bearing account while on the payroll. When the employees retire, they collect a lump sum and start receiving pension payments.

DROP has drawn public ire because elected officials have enrolled - including some who signed up, ran for re-election and "retired" for a day to collect a payout before returning to serve. Seven Council members are current or past DROP enrollees. Five chose not to run again, and Councilman Frank Rizzo lost his re-election bid, leaving Councilwoman Marian Tasco as the only one planning to take DROP and return in 2012.