Will Council members say yea or nay to salary increase?

It's that time of the year again: The post-belt-tightening-budget season when City Council members, who just agreed for the second straight year to raise property taxes in Philadelphia, must declare whether they will now accept a cost-of-living salary increase for themselves - or not.

Council President Anna C. Verna's office advised members they have until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to decide whether they will (a) indeed accept in their paychecks what this year is a 1.9 percent COLA; or (b) deduct the extra money and return it to the city's general fund or to a pet charity or cause; or (c) accept just a portion of the COLA and direct the rest elsewhere.

Any member who does not respond will simply get the COLA. (With the COLA, the new salary of most Council members would be $120,232, up from $117,991 last year; salaries are slightly higher for the five members of Council leadership.) 

As of mid-afternoon today, here were the responses of 10 of Council's 17 members:

Returning the money to the general fund (the pot of dollars controlled by the mayor and used to pay police salaries, keep libraries and swimming pools open, fill potholes and other basic city services and needs): Darrell L. Clarke; W. Wilson Goode Jr.; William K. Greenlee; Jim Kenney; Donna Reed Miller; and Verna.

That so far means the general fund will grow by $14,403 in fiscal 2012, which begins Friday.

One member, Marian B. Tasco, has redirected her COLA to the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, as she has in the past.

Three members are keeping the COLA, including two who will be leaving office in early January: Frank Rizzo and Frank DiCicco. The third is Maria Quinones Sanchez.

Mayor Nutter will also not accept the COLA to which he is entitled, said Budget Director Rebecca Rhynhart. He will in the new fiscal year continue to cut his salary by 10 percent and take two weeks of unpaid furlough, making his effective salary $170,935. That leaves the mayor on track to continue to give back more of his salary than any other local elected official.

Rhynhart said Nutter's Cabinet members and department commissioners would also not be receiving cost-of-living increases.

The COLAs result from a 2003 city law that requires elected officials' salaries to grow yearly according to the annual rise each June 30 in the Consumer Price Index.

This is the first time in two years that members would receive a COLA since the Consumer Price Index in Philadelphia in June 2009 was below zero.

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