Philadelphia city workers don't need to hurry to enroll in the DROP pension program.
Lawmakers are promising that if they make changes to the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, eligible employees will still be allowed to enroll.
City Council Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco introduced a resolution Thursday aimed at reassuring city workers interested in DROP, saying that the current flood of applications could be costly to the city, and that people should take time to consider whether DROP makes sense for them.
"What we want to say is, 'Look, don't rush,' " said Tasco, whose resolution passed.
In August, Mayor Nutter called on Council to kill DROP, citing a study he commissioned that put the program's price tag at $258 million over the last 10 years.
Since then, 1,224 employees have applied, 474 of them police officers and 161 firefighters, Tasco said. Employees must wait 90 days after they apply to decide whether to enroll.
DROP allows employees of retirement age who have worked for the city at least 10 years to collect a lump payment when they leave the city in exchange for accepting a lower pension payment during retirement. Council has hired its own actuary to evaluate the cost of DROP and plans to start debating over the program this fall.
Thursday's resolution says that if Council enacts legislation "revising or curtailing" DROP, all eligible city employees will have a "window of opportunity" to enroll before any changes affecting their eligibility take effect.
Seven Council members - Tasco, President Anna C. Verna, Joan Krajewski, Frank Rizzo, Jack Kelly, Frank DiCicco, and Donna Reed Miller - have participated in DROP.
Minority Leader Brian J. O'Neill urged Council to expand the pension discussion beyond DROP. Different studies have put different estimates on the cost of DROP. O'Neill said he believed the program probably cost something despite promises to the contrary when it was introduced during the Rendell administration in 1999.
But he said the expense was small compared with the problems facing the city's pension fund, which has only $3.5 billion in assets, about 45 percent of what it need to pay future liabilities.
That's because mayors have repeatedly failed to fund the pension.
"DROP is a drop in the bucket when it comes to our pension fund," O'Neill said. "I don't want this to be a small conversation. I want it to be a big one."
City Finance Director Rob Dubow, who chairs the city Pension Board, said the Nutter administration had repeatedly made pension problems clear to Council. In addition, he said Council had a nonvoting representative on the Pension Board.
"This isn't something new as an issue," Dubow said.
Separately, Council passed a bill sponsored by Councilman James F. Kenney to exempt churches and schools from Philadelphia's noise ordinance.
The clamor began early last month when the city's Health Department issued a warning to St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Manayunk for ringing its bell at 7 a.m. The letter threatened the 179-year-old church with fines of up to $700 a day if the ringing was determined to be in violation of the 2006 noise law.