Staff Council has eyes on PERA legislation

Proposed extension of 2.5 percent shift generates increasing concern

Concerns over Public Employees' Retirement Association (PERA) legislation dominated discussion at the University of Colorado Staff Council's March 3 meeting at the Colorado Springs campus.

Members said rumors and confusion abound, especially when it comes to the proposed continuance of the 2.5 percent shift in contribution rates. This year, employees who are members of PERA are paying their required contributions into the retirement fund as well as 2.5 percent of the university's contribution.

The move was made to stem some of the state's budget deficit. A bill – SB11-076 – will extend that shift for one year, once again in an attempt to reduce state costs. The bill was passed by the Colorado Senate and has moved to the House. The House Finance Committee is scheduled to take up the matter Thursday, March 10.

If it becomes legislation, SB11-076 will reduce higher education's contribution rate to 7.65 percent from 10.15 percent for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the same amount paid in 2010-2011.

The Boulder Staff Council has drafted a resolution expressing its opposition to the recommended extension of the 2.5 percent contribution shift. Other council members said they will consult with their campuses to discuss either joining Boulder's resolution or drafting their own.

A second PERA bill pending in the Colorado Legislature would change the membership of the board, increasing the number of members appointed by the governor and decreasing the number of association members.

Currently, the board consists of three members appointed by the governor, 11 elected by the association, and the state treasurer. HB11-1248 would change the mix to six governor-appointed members, seven association members and the treasurer. Board members oversee fund investments.

The House Finance Committee passed the measure 7-6 on March 2 after several members voiced concerns about the bill. While some legislators contend taxpayers should have a larger say in PERA matters, others worry additional governor appointees could create a more politicized board.

That bill now moves to the House floor.

Also at the Staff Council meeting, members discussed potential pay decreases, which were discussed by the Board of Regents during a special meeting in October. Regent Jim Geddes, R-Sedalia, at the time suggested board consideration of an across-the-board pay reduction for employees. There has been no follow-up discussion of the recommendation. Council co-chair Lori Krug is working with Kelly Fox, vice president and chief financial officer, to develop a realistic view of university employee pay rates. Krug hopes to present the information to the Board of Regents during its April meeting.

The council also selected recipients of the annual Service Excellence Awards. The winners will be honored during this year's Staff Conference on April 15 in Denver. Honorees, judged on service to campus and the community, will receive $1,000 prizes and plaques.