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BGA: Suburban Police, Fire Pension Fund Shortfalls Total $3.3 Billion


CHICAGO (CBS) -- Police and fire departments across suburban Cook County might be in line for some budget cuts, as huge pension problems loom, according to a report from a government watchdog.

WBBM Newsradio's Nancy Harty reports the Better Government Association found 94 percent of the 217 police and fire pension funds in suburban Cook County have less than what's considered healthy amounts in the bank.

Collectively, the funds have a shortfall of approximately $3.3 billon.

"If you don't have enough money to pay current benefits, then you may have to start selling assets," BGA director of investigations Bob Reed said.

West suburban Stone Park has only 23 cents in its reserves for every dollar in benefits owed to police pensioners, and that's after the village borrowed $2 million.

Reed said the problems in the suburbs could mean privatization for some departments, or mergers of some suburban police and fire departments.

"They may merge with other public safety agencies. They may try to offload their public safety to the county. They may have to dissolve a couple of fire protection districts and just find another way in which to handle that, maybe through privatization," Reed said.

Reed said the $3.3 billion total shortfall for all police and fire pension funds throughout the county is serious financial trouble, but pales in comparison to the $100 billion owed to pension funds for employees of the state of Illinois, the city of Chicago, and Cook County government.

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