Council moves forward to save DROP

City Councilman Frank Rizzo (left) and City Commission Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione (right) both lost their primary races for reelection, primarily because of their participation in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. Yet, Council is still trying to keep the DROP perk, which was initially designed to benefit city workers.

As promised, City Council on Thursday introduced a bill that will preserve the controversial DROP retirement perk for all city workers, including the Council members themselves.

In a press release, Council President Anna C. Verna said a compromise bill will eliminate DROP's cost, while avoiding costly litigation that is sure to follow if the prized benefit is denied city workers. That bill would shift the guaranteed 4.5 percent interest rate on DROP funds to the U.S. Treasury rate, saving an estimated $1 million a year, and push back DROP eligibility to two years after workers reach retirement age.

"I know there has been immense pressure to eliminate the DROP because of its cost,” which has been estimated to be at least $100 million since its inception in 1999, Council President Verna said. “The bill introduced today preserves DROP as an option. It is designed to eliminate its cost for all employees in currently open pension plans who are not yet eligible to retire. My colleagues and I believe this is the better approach, but we look forward to exploring the alternatives at the scheduled hearing on the bill.”

A hearing is scheduled for June 8.

The bill does not change the status of current elected officials, who can still join DROP. All newly elected officials are excluded by a 2009 state law.

Seven City Council members have already joined the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, walking away with lump-sum payments from between $190,000 to more than $500,000. Ten others are still eligible. They are Jannie L. Blackwell, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Darrell L. Clarke, W. Wilson Goode Jr., Bill Green, William K. Greenlee, Curtis Jones Jr., Brian J. O'Neill and Maria Quinones Sanchez.

Six of the 10 have pledged not to join DROP in the future. Blackwell, Clarke, Greenlee and O'Neill -- all of whom could collect lump sums of about $500,000 in four years if they joined DROP tomorrow -- have refused to make any promises about their intentions.

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