Chicago Firefighter`s pension fund numbers are shocking - FOX 32 News Chicago

Chicago Firefighter`s pension fund numbers are shocking

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield claiming there may be a glimmer of hope for dealing with a pension debt that now exceeds $16,000 for every man woman and child in the city of Chicago, but the numbers on the Chicago Firefighters pension fund are shocking.

Trustees reportedly sell $130 million in assets a year just to cover current pension checks. They debate exactly when those pension checks will start bouncing, but all agree the fund will be flat, busted broke in a few short years, and time is running out.

"It makes me nervous, makes me scared," says 36th Ward Alderman Nick Sposato. "I have a lot of friends that put their lives on the line daily and they're hard workers and they're counting on that. They don't have Social Security to look forward to."

Alderman Nick Sposato was a firefighter for 18 years before he won a seat in the City Council. He was stunned when we told him that the Firemen's Annuity & Benefit Fund now has assets worth only 23% of its future obligations, worst by far of all the major pension funds.

Mayor Emanuel campaigned on a promise to fix this financial nightmare, even popping into firehouses for frank and off-the-record meetings with the rank and file. Sources told FOX 32 News Emanuel stopped the practice after several sessions became too frank.

There was also frank talk in Springfield late Tuesday sparked by a new pension reform proposal that backers said would save taxpayers billions of dollars at the State Universities Retirement System.

"People who are working on fixed incomes are very, very scared about this," says Northern Illinois University's President John G. Peters. "And we all have their fate in our hands."

Supported by State Senate President John Cullerton, the proposal was being touted as a potential model for the rest of the pension mess. Future new hires would get a new kind of retirement benefit, partly a traditional pension and partly a 401K style fund whose investment they could direct. Among the risks for taxpayers: a cost of living adjustment tied to one-half the rate of future inflation.

Supporters claim it would shave 28% off the state universities' unfunded pension liability, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Will it break the stalemate in Springfield? It's too early to tell.

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