Monday, July 14, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Do we really need more debate on DROP?

On Monday, Mayor Nutter called for the elimination of the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, more commonly known as DROP. According to a study by academics at Boston College, the program has cost the city $258 million over the past ten years.

Do we really need more debate on DROP?

City Council President Anna C. Verna is expecting a DROP payout of more than half a million dollars. She said she didn´t read an article about the program´s massive costs.
City Council President Anna C. Verna is expecting a DROP payout of more than half a million dollars. She said she didn't read an article about the program's massive costs. TOM GRALISH/ Staff Photographer

On Monday, Mayor Nutter called for the elimination of the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, more commonly known as DROP. According to a study by academics at Boston College, the program has cost the city $258 million over the past ten years.

That's a pretty shocking number, since DROP was originally sold to city officials-- including then-Councilman Michael Nutter-- as being a cost neutral management tool. The study seems to be the smoking gun needed to eliminate the program once and for all.

However, it's not as simple as Mayor Nutter waving a magic wand. DROP was created by an act of City Council and it will take another piece of legislation to eliminate the program all together. At least one elected official-- City Councilman Frank DiCicco-- is ready to move quickly on Nutter's call to abolish DROP. From today's story by Catherine Lucey in the Daily News:

Councilman Frank DiCicco sent a letter to Council President Anna Verna yesterday saying: "In light of the recent report of its impact on city finances and the mayor's public call for its abolition, a special session is in order."

DiCicco was joined by City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who put out a statement calling for the elimination of DROP the same day as Mayor Nutter's press conference. However, other elected officials were less enthusiastic in their response.

City Council President Anna Verna was quick to throw cold water on DiCicco's proposal to call for a special session. Instead, Verna said that Council was “conducting due diligence on the complex legal and labor issues involved with the program” before making any decision. Verna said Council will tackle the issue when the body reconvenes in September, but didn't say anything one way or another about her position on abolishing DROP.

Verna wasn't the only one to put out a statement that didn't say much. City Council Majority Leader Marian Tasco released a statement that was only three sentences long. She'll introduce a bill to abolish DROP and will schedule public hearings. However, the press release is very clear that the bill would be on behalf of the administration and not necessarily supported by Tasco.

We can't help but wonder: what will have to happen for members of City Council to get outraged about DROP? The study released on Monday was supposed to be the last word on the value of the controversial program. So why do we need more hearings? Can't we just kill DROP once and for all?

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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