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Street boosts his going-away payday

He will claim more than $100,000 in raises he deferred over the last four years. He will leave office collecting more than $560,000.

Mayor Street is to participate in the city's Deferred Retirement Option Program. He will leave office with a pre-tax payout of more than $450,000 from that program.
Mayor Street is to participate in the city's Deferred Retirement Option Program. He will leave office with a pre-tax payout of more than $450,000 from that program.Read moreERIC MENCHER / Inquirer Staff Photographer

Mayor Street, who vetoed City Council's pay-raise legislation in the midst of an election in 2003, will retroactively claim more than $111,000 in cost-of-living increases over the last four years, boosting his walk-away gross pay to more than $560,000.

Street rejected a raise in 2004, from $146,000 to $165,000, even after Council overrode him, but now he has decided to collect, retroactively, the money he had "deferred" until now.

"He deferred it and held back on it, and so this was not a reversal of any of his positions," said City Finance Director Vincent Jannetti, to whom Street referred questions.

The $111,000 is the difference between the $146,000 salary he has received for the last four years and the salary he would have received with cost-of-living increases approved by Council. His salary in 2007 would have been $186,000.

He did this once before. In 2004, he accepted cost-of-living increases he had turned down since his second year in office.

Street's reclaimed raises boost the $451,626 he is due as a participant in the city's Deferred Retirement Option Program, giving him a total of about $563,000 when he leaves office Jan. 7.

That's on top of the annual pension of $115,700 he gets for life.

The DROP program allows employees eligible to retire to pick a retirement date four years down the road, then amass their pension payments while working and collecting their salaries.

The program was intended to encourage veteran employees to stay on past retirement age while allowing the city to plan to fill those positions. Elected officials were never excluded from the list.

Street wanted to end the DROP program in 2003, saying the city could not afford it, but he applied for it in 2004 once the city Pension Board voted to continue it.

"Whether he opposed it or embraced it at the outset, it became law," Jannetti said. "He is one of those eligible employees, so he availed himself of it like anybody else, and that's his right."

And so Street, who has twice declared personal bankruptcy and who was once thrown off the Philadelphia Gas Commission because he owed more than $5,000 in gas bills, leaves office financially secure.

He told Council last week in a brief farewell speech that there was a time when he had been worried about his financial future once he left office. "I probably could have been a little bit more confident about all of this if I had known early on that there was going to be a DROP program," he said.

In 1982, when Street was a city councilman, the Finance Department threatened to dock nearly one-third of his $631.25 biweekly paycheck to collect back city taxes. Street's statement at the time gives an insight into his current stance:

"As a member of Council who got elected primarily by representing poor black people, I don't have the benefit of the kind of financial help available to some other elected officials. When I leave local government, what will I do?"

Now he knows: He will teach a course in urban politics and policy at Temple University in the spring, for which he will receive $30,000 for the semester.

His city payments for 2008, including his pension, will total $678,327.