More bad news for Chicago-area public pensions

February 10, 2011

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Another new study shows the state of Chicago-area public pensions is getting more serious.

The report released Thursday by the non-partisan Civic Federation, a Chicago-based budget watchdog group, looks at ten local pension funds. It found unfunded liabilities ballooned to nearly $23 billion last year. That's the amount of money local governments should have been stashing away for their workers' retirements, but haven't been.

The group reports that number has jumped from $3.8 billion in 2000 - a 600 percent increase.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said the shortfall affects more than just public workers.

"The unfunded debt [for] every Chicagoan - every man, woman and child - is now over $7,000," Msall said. "And what that means is - somehow those debts are going to have to be paid, whether it's going to be from reducing services or raising taxes."

A recently passed state law will require Chicago to start paying more money into its police and fire pensions starting in 2015. But Msall said it will fall to the city's next mayor to figure out where to find that money.