Gregory W. Smith: We work for Colorado, Routt County


Ellen Bonnifield retired after working for 30 years in the South Routt School District. After a career educating local school children, she’s now able to give back to her community through a variety of volunteer activities, including teaching sewing for her granddaughter’s 4H Club and leading tours of Historic Routt County.

Why do I mention Ellen? Because she is a Public Employees’ Retirement Association retiree. And like so many of her retired colleagues here in Routt County, her career of public service isn’t quite over. She, and 500,000 other current and former public employees in Colorado, inspire and motivate all of us who have the pleasure to work on their behalf at Colorado PERA.

In late June, Colorado PERA released its annual financial report containing another clean audit by KPMG and showing earnings of more than $6 billion in investment performance, a return of 15.6 percent and an improved funded ratio. This strong investment performance comes even with a more conservative assumption on future investment returns the PERA Board implemented last year.

As a result of our positive investment growth, PERA now manages $47 billion in assets for more than 500,000 Coloradans, including 2,391 current, former and retired public employees who live in Routt County. This is an all-time high and means more than half a million Coloradans now can depend upon a more stable and secure long-term retirement savings and investment plan.

With the strong investment return in 2013, PERA’s 30 year annualized return reached 9.5 percent showing PERA is sustainable for the long term. The bipartisan 2010 legislative reforms, which were supported by active and retired members, employers, PERA Board members and policy makers, continue to make steady progress toward the goal of full funding for the plan serving most Colorado public workers. This means all the people who work for the public, who are building our communities and ensuring our quality of life, have more certainty to plan and save for their families’ futures.

PERA is a not-for-profit economic engine consistently delivering value to Colorado and its largest workforce. PERA is a vital and stable contributor to Colorado’s economy, distributing more than $3 billion in 2013 to retirees who live in Colorado ($11.5 million in Routt County alone) which helps sustain nearly 26,000 jobs, making it one of Colorado’s best investments.

The facts show Americans are not saving enough for retirement, and if that doesn’t change, we could begin to see more tax dollars being spent on publicly funded assistance and social services for retirees. Having a retirement or pension plan like PERA ensures Coloradans, and especially the 300 retirees in Routt County like Ellen who worked hard for their community, will have the certainty, security and stability to meet their financial obligations today and into the future.

Gregory W. Smith is the executive director of Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association.


Fred Duckels 2 years, 8 months ago

Is Ellen related to Paul Bonnifield, author of a recent article espousing the same message? This is propaganda at it's best and neglects reality. I believe that the enrollees are guaranteed about 6% plus return and the rest of us will cover the shortfalls ir any occur. One reason that we keep printing money is to keep the markets up to bail out PERA. My response to Paul was that his idea only worked for government employees and this appears to be prophetic.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

A very disappointing letter that avoided mentioning the elephant in the room.

The big issue facing PERA is that it is substantially underfunded. It is amazing that the executive director of PERA could submit a letter to the paper without ever mentioning that issue. Instead he mentions a bunch of facts suggesting all is good while neglecting the facts of their future obligations.

A little bit of independent reveals PERA is about 70% funded which is considered to be a troubled, salvageable situation for a pension fund That requires reducing promises of future benefits, increasing contribution and setting a reasonable rate of future returns on investment. All steps white PERA has taken. Thus, PERA is now considered to be in a stable situation and if things go well then it's financial situation is expected to gradually strengthen. But any complacency that results in increasing benefits, reducing contributions or poor investment performance could quickly doom PERA.


jerry carlton 2 years, 8 months ago

I do not remember any articles singing the praises of PERA during the market crashes in 2000 and 2008?


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

Actually, in 2000 PERA was riding high and was fully funded. Then they reduced contributions which caused them to be modestly underfunded until 2008-2010 which put them dangerously underfunded and requiring intensive care to recover.


mark hartless 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm sure many of these people do a fine job and have no malice, but so do many in the private sector and they get diddly squatt for retirement beyond whet they pay in. Regarding Social Security, they may not even get that.

"The facts show Americans are not saving enough for retirement..." No kidding!! This is because they know that someone else will be forced to bail them out; kinda the same theroy as why Americans won't pick their own strawberries...


Michael Bird 2 years, 8 months ago

From the most current PERA financial report: The aggregate funded ratio is 64.2% State Division 57.5% School Division 60.4% Local Government 73.1% Judicial 73.0% Denver Public Schools 81.2% Health Care 18.8% Denver Public Schools Health care 20.2%.

For 2013, an assumed rate of return is 7.5% The amortization period is 60 yrs (State) or 61 yrs (School) with current funding.. With future contribution rate increases, it is 44 yrs for both. So what we have is totally inadequate contribution rate, excessive payouts, and an unreasonable assumed rate of return besed on comments from most financial anylists. And, if this Ponsi scheme fails, the taxpayers legislatively get stuck with any shortfall and guess how many non-public employee persons are members of PERA's Board.


Fred Duckels 2 years, 8 months ago

It appears that the left is gearing up for the next election with propaganda of questionable quality. This article along with Paul Bonnifield's are part of a planned blitz to educate the base for the next election promising freebies for all. The candy store theme is a proven winner.


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