December 26, 2016
Expenses for public education have been increasing, and the proportion of our Colorado State Budget spent on public education each year, continues to increase. This more-than-proportional increase each year, takes a larger chunk of the total of all other costs in our state. The same goes for county expenses for education.
Part of the problem is the irresponsible amount of money put toward retirement (also increases in other expenses). Raises sound great, except the money isn’t there. Wouldn’t it be best (understatement) to stop with the generosity.
Walker Stapleton has, for years, been trying to influence those in charge of the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) to take measures necessary to reign in reckless wasteful spending, and begin to deal with the $30 billion in unfunded liabilities.
PERA needs to stop acting like “government” and be more responsible with our money.
By: Peter Marcus, ColoradoPolitics.com
December 21, 2016
Over the protests of Colorado’s state treasurer, the head of the state’s retirement system received a 3 percent salary increase on Tuesday – his second raise in just over a year – bringing his salary to nearly $406,000 in 2017.
Greg Smith, chief executive of the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, also will receive an incentive payment of 20 percent for leading the $47 billion, 300-employee retirement system, which amounts to nearly $79,000. Smith’s current salary is $394,000.
State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, an ex-officio, voting member of PERA’s board of trustees – and a longtime critic of the system – assailed the raise, pointing out that the pension fund for the state’s more than 547,000 members faces about $30 billion in unfunded liabilities.
“It is unconscionable that Greg Smith will receive a 3 percent raise and 20 percent bonus for doing absolutely nothing to address PERA’s growing unfunded liability,” Stapleton said in a statement issued by his office. “This bonus is not tied to any performance. He is getting an extra 20 percent for simply showing up and maintaining the status quo. This is a prime example of all that is wrong with government.”
Stapleton joined two other board members in voting against the cost-of-living adjustment, which passed 7-3, though five board members were absent for the vote, according to Stapleton’s office.
The PERA board previously approved a 20 percent pay raise for Smith in August 2015. Under the terms, he is eligible for a discretionary bonus of up to 30 percent. PERA calls the bonus an “annual performance award.” Smith is receiving a 20 percent bonus for his work this year.
Smith also is eligible for a “retention award” at the end of the August 2015-approved three-year contract extension, equal to more than $200,000, which is in addition to his base salary and any “performance award” determined by the board.
Smith could be making nearly $900,000 in 2018 with his salary and total bonuses.
“The PERA Board of Trustees reviewed the 2016 performance of the executive director and based on a number of quantifiable factors, Mr. Smith will earn a 3 percent raise for 2017 and receive an incentive payment of 20 percent for leading the system this year,” explained Katie Kaufmanis, spokeswoman for PERA.
The raise comes as state employees continue to fight for an across-the-board salary increase. The last raise was in 2014, when employees saw only a 2.5 percent bump. State employees could be receiving another 2.5 percent increase in the upcoming fiscal year, if lawmakers approve it in the legislative session that begins in January.
State employees fall about 6 percent behind equivalent salaries seen in the private sector, according to an August salary survey.
PERA this year lowered its assumed investment rate of return from 7.5 percent to 7.25 percent, which increased its unfunded liability from nearly $27 billion to $30 billion, according to Stapleton’s office.
The state saw only a 1.5 percent return on retirement investments last year, though Smith says the overall return on investment outperformed a PERA benchmark for anticipated return and the median return for public funds.
The 1.5 percent return on its $43 billion portfolio at the time fell well short of PERA’s assumed investment rate of return at that point of 7.5 percent. Under the projections, it would take PERA more than 40 years to be fully funded.
PERA distributed about $4.3 billion last year to retirees.