Nutter has given more than $38,000 back to Philadelphia

(Frank Kummer)
Posted: June 24, 2010

Mayor Nutter has given back more than $38,000 in salary to the city coffers since the financial crisis hit in late 2008, far outpacing other local elected officials.

Nutter announced in November 2008 that he would slice his salary by 10 percent and take two weeks of unpaid furlough as he announced painful service cuts. He also turned back a 5 percent cost-of-living raise in July 2009.

Through June 13, Nutter had returned $38,427 in raises, according to the city controller's payroll records. That's more than four times any other giveback to the city treasury among elected officials. If Nutter took full pay, he would be receiving $195,000.

Since January 2009, most of Philadelphia's 25 elected city officials have returned some part of their salary in recognition of the city's fiscal challenges, for a total of $148,381 through June 14. That group does not include former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham.

In addition, $14,889 was donated to city-focused charities by City Council members Marian B. Tasco, Bill Green, and Maria Quiñones Sánchez, who refused to return their money to the city general fund for Nutter to control.

Some took a 5 percent pay cut after Nutter announced the first wave of bad news in November 2008. Others ordered deductions from their paychecks to offset their cost-of-living raises last year.

Only the members of the Board of City Commissioners - Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione, and Anthony Clark and Joseph Duda - have given up nothing, according to the payroll records. Their salaries rose 5.13 percent last year, from $112,233 to $117,991, under the cost-of-living increase mandated by a city law. That law does not allow Council members to alter their salaries during their four-year terms.

The three commissioners, who oversee voter registration and elections, did not return calls seeking comment for this article.

Sánchez, whose salary also rose from $112,233 to $117,991 last year, was the only other elected official who directed no money back to the city treasury. She did donate $1,540 to charities in her district, which includes part of North Philadelphia and the Northeast.

Different paths

Since Nutter declared his 10 percent salary reduction in November 2008, Council has wavered and waffled, with 17 members taking different paths.

Only eight Council members joined Nutter in January 2009 with a 5 percent giveback that lasted through June 30, 2009. They were President Anna C. Verna, Majority Leader Tasco, Frank DiCicco, W. Wilson Goode Jr., Green, Curtis Jones Jr., James F. Kenney, and Joan L. Krajewski.

Faced with the 5 percent cost-of-living increase they were to get on July 1, 2009 - which was based on the Consumer Price Index for the previous June - Council members took six weeks to reach consensus on what to do.

'Butkovitz Theorem'

In the end, all but Goode proclaimed they would give back part of it. Some, however, said they would give it only to charity. Others followed Controller Alan Butkovitz, who chipped in with a lesser deduction that he calculated would offset the increased taxes he would pay on a raise he was not allowed to refuse. The process has since been dubbed the "Butkovitz Theorem."

Goode, who has cut his office budget down to the lowest on Council, at $250,000, argued that he had found more effective ways to save taxpayers' money. He also has prepaid his property taxes through 2012, because the mayor has repeatedly said the city's budget crisis would be most acute in the next two years.

Tasco, who now makes $126,419 annually, has donated the most of any other elected official, with nearly $11,000 in deductions. Unfortunately for Nutter, most of that has gone to Tasco's favorite charity, the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition. Less than $3,300 has been returned to the city.

Next to Nutter, Kenney has given the most back to the city, at $9,025. Green gave up the same amount, but he directed more than $5,700 to the Friends of the Free Library, a help to the library system but not the taxpayers.

Nutter's cabinet members, who make substantially more than Council members, have been hit harder. Nutter cut chief of staff Clay Armbrister's paycheck by 10 percent, docked top officials 5 percent, and ordered a week of unpaid furloughs in each of the last two budget years.

That took more than $23,000 off Armbrister's $198,500 salary over the last year and $12,000 from Finance Director Rob Dubow's $174,464 salary. Their salaries will remain at the reduced 2008 levels through the end of next year, according to the administration.

Meanwhile, Council members have decisions to make. Some have stopped giving back to the city. Councilman Frank L. Rizzo said he had always intended to give back his cost-of-living increase for only six months, and he stopped in December.

"If things got bad again, I would be supportive of doing that again," Rizzo said. He said he wanted to see what further budget cuts Nutter has in store. The mayor has threatened to cut police, fire, and libraries in response to a Council budget he regarded as fiscally irresponsible.

Verna also stopped her cost-of-living deduction in December. In a brief interview Tuesday, she initially said she was considering restarting the deductions from her $148,090 salary beginning with the new fiscal year July 1. But she also pointed out that Council had cut its budget by $1 million and noted, "We were asked the last time, and we haven't been asked this time."

Questioned whether the self-described "coequal" branch of city government needed to be prompted to take a pay cut, Verna said that starting July 1 she would give the 5 percent back to the city.

In addition to Goode, Rizzo, and Verna, Majority Whip Darrell L. Clarke, Councilman Jack Kelly, and Sánchez are not currently making any contributions to the city.

Clarke said he had "not given it any thought" but would consider restarting his deduction to offset last year's cost-of-living raise. He said he did not think it was appropriate to receive a raise while three of the city's four municipal unions have gone without a contract, or a raise, since July 2009.

All other current deductions will continue through the next fiscal year unless Council members direct otherwise, said Council's chief accounting officer, Anne Kelly King.

Because the Consumer Price Index in Philadelphia was below zero last June, elected officials are not in line for raises this year.


Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or jshields@phillynews.com.

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