PERA proposal could help, hurt schools

ALAMOSA —Colorado's Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) is facing a funding crisis and is looking for help. After attending a meeting with PERA Executive Director Greg Smith on Friday, Alamosa School District Superintendent Robert Alejo told the district's board of education how PERA's proposed legislation could potentially impact staff in both positive and negative ways.

"If PERA is not sound and not a viable retirement opportunity or option for new teachers, in my humble opinion is that not yet another reason that might dissuade folks from getting into the teaching profession?" said Alejo during their Monday meeting. "Possibly."

To become more financially stable, PERA's suggested reforms include reducing the cost of living adjustment for current retirees from 2 percent to 1.5 percent, increasing the age of retirement to 65 years old, increasing employee and employer contributions and basing those contributions on a gross salary instead of a net salary.

"They cited that the average is 27 years for a person to complete their PERA retirement," Alejo said. "With the new recommendations that could be juiced up to a 43 year career."

Today, without the changes, PERA said it would take 78 years to become 100 percent funded. With the potential new law it could reach full funding within 30 years and have enough cash to pay current and future retirement benefits.

If passed, most of the changes would go in effect in 2020 and therefore affect new hires in the education field, which is already seeing a teaching shortage.

"Everyone is going to take a bite out of the apple at the rate we're going and hopefully there will be some apple left for our newbies...It's alarming and it's very concerning."

A bill of the proposal has yet to be drafted and no legislator has announced sponsorship of it.