Yes, the DROP saga continues and further illustrates the core Philadelphian financial problems in a sadly obvious example; greed. In the continuing saga of the Philadelphia DROP program, upon Mayor Nutter’s announcement that City Council would be required to vote on ending DROP, two things happened, according to a MyFoxPhilly report. As I have mentioned before, I do not begrudge City employees their pensions. They are hard working Philadelphians and deserve the security that a pension brings upon the end of a lifetime of service-as does anyone who has put their years of service in, it is what we work for, right?
The City solicitor determined that City Council does not have the authority to drop DROP, which is interesting. Since the City Council first started the program, one would wonder why the Council all of a sudden has no authority to end DROP. City Council’s authority over DROP is being deferred pending a determination of the issue. Now, Philadelphia’s DROP future is in limbo-a delay that citizens could attribute to the second issue…
The second issue is that 1,224 City workers, including police and firefighters, have rushed to sign up for DROP since hearing that Philadelphia may cut DROP funding altogether. It is almost inevitable that DROP will end at this point. However, the Council members passed a resolution stating that no matter what DROP changes are made, eligible employees will still be able to enroll. Anyone who signs up before its end will receive his or her payouts.
Many upper level City workers with their allotted time in service have to get it in before DROP ends, and some may get two DROP payments. What is out of hand is the pension amounts granted to those sitting in upper-level City jobs. Elected and appointed officials have dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars into their banks only to return to work the next day and pile up another “nest egg.” They are doing the same jobs they did before “retirement” while receiving the accrued DROP money-with interest-on the retirement day in addition to a regular monthly pension check and a regular City paycheck at the same time.
Seven City Council members have already enrolled in DROP and are still sitting on the council, determining DROP’s fate, including the Council President, Anna C. Verna. It only takes 10 years of service to be eligible for DROP and any of the seven members who put in another 10 years of service can again apply before the program ends. How many DROP payments will they receive?
Stopping the Abuse
The problem is in stopping the program’s abuse while preserving its legitimate application. DROP intended to allow City workers to specify a retirement date up to 4 years in advance and accumulate pension and interest payments. It is a little like double dipping, but it is reasonable considering the original goal of the program-keeping valuable staff longer while improving the quality of replacement workers. The point was to encourage them to stick around for a little extra compensation and pass on their knowledge by training their replacement workers.
There is nothing so well intended that it cannot be abused by the greedy and non-civic minded. A firefighter, delaying his retirement to train new recruits is DROP’s inspiration; the City Councilor that signs up, retires, and then signs up again, while laughing all the way to the bank is why DROP is under scrutiny. It is a shame, really, how quickly greed takes over. The subject of books and movies everywhere, greed and its legitimization is the core of what ails the USA and Philadelphia. Our economy is poisoned with it and now it seems that the public servants whom Philadelphians rely on to safeguard the “City of Brotherly Love” are instead falling prey to the same greed monster.
“Nutter Waits for the Other Shoo to DROP,” MyFoxPhilly
Miriam Hill, “Council Tries to Ease Surge in Philadelphia DROP Applications,” Philadelphia Inquirer