What is PERA?

Here in Colorado, 9% of our citizens—485,000 people—either today or in the future, will rely on a PERA pension for their retirement. PERA members include teachers, highway workers, department of corrections workers, state patrol officers, as well as other local, special district, and state employees.

The Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) provides retirement and other benefits to the employees of more than 500 government agencies and public entities in the state of Colorado. PERA is the 21st largest public pension plan in the United States.

Established by State law in 1931, PERA operates by authority of the Colorado General Assembly and is administered under Title 24, Article 51 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Its membership includes:

  • employees of the Colorado state government,
  • public school teachers in the state,
  • many university and college employees,
  •  judges,
  • many employees of cities and towns,
  • state troopers, and
  • the employees of a number of other public entities.

PERA is a substitute for Social Security for most of these public employees. Benefits are pre-funded, which means while a member is working, he or she is required to contribute a fixed percentage of their salary to the retirement trust funds. This percentage is 8 percent for most members, troopers you pay 10% (this additional payment gets you enhanced benefits because of the line of work you are in). The employer also contributes a percentage of pay to the trust fund.

The trust funds are then invested by PERA under the direction of a board of trustees. PERA’s investment strategy uses established investment objectives with long-term goals and policies.

By State law, the management of the public employees’ retirement funds is vested in PERA’s 16-member Board of Trustees. The number of member-elected Trustees is 11:

  • four members from the School Division;
  • three members from the State Division;
  • one member from the Local Government Division;
  • one Judicial Division member;
  • two PERA retirees;

Other members of the Board include

  • the State Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, as an ex officio member and
  • One member (who does not have a vote) from the Denver Public Schools
  • Three members who are appointed by the Governor

In 2010, PERA provided over $3 billion in benefit payments to more than 93,000 PERA members. The average PERA benefit is less than $3,000 per month. This is not a gold plated pension plan. This is retirement security for the thousands of employees who invest in PERA.