Council president Verna: we got to spend money to save money

City Council is taking to heart the old adage that you have to spend money to make money.

Amid the worst economic crisis in the city’s recent history, council plans to spend an unspecified amount of money on budget and tax consultants as it picks apart Mayor Nutter’s proposed spending plan.

The move would increase council’s spending at a time when most city departments are cutting back, but it would also give council an independent, outside perspective on Mayor Nutter’s proposals.

“We have, what, 60 days in order to deal with this very large, large issue and I think we need help,” said Council President Anna Verna, whose office issued the request for proposal seeking consultant help last week.

Verna said she did not know what firm or indpendent consultant would be hired.

But it was clear the job would not go to Charles McPherson, City Council’s long-serving chief financial officer and budget expert, who is retiring on Thursday.

McPherson, who is enrolled in the city’s controversial DROP program, is barred by state ethics law from contracting directly with the city as a consultant. The law is murkier as to whether McPherson could work for a larger firm that contracts with Philadelphia, but McPherson was adamant yesterday that he has no intention of trying to do so.

“You’re asking me am I looking to do that. The answer is no,” McPherson said.

Instead, McPherson — who is reluctant to deprive council of his 37 years of experience in city government at this critical time — will volunteer his services through the end of the budget process.

Nevertheless, McPherson’s pending departure, and the scale of the budget challenges facing the city, clearly has Council feeling as though it needs some back up.

Mayor Nutter has no objects, according to his spokesman Doug Oliver.

“Charlie clearly has a wealth of institutional knowledge and he is recognized both by the administration and his council colleagues as the resident expert on all things budget related. So his pending retirement definitely leaves a tremendous void for council to fill as they deem appropriate,” Oliver said.

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