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February 2013 Meeting at Red Rocks Community College in Golden, Colorado

Kenneth Johnson and Skye Brunick


Kristy Rudy


Dennis Gatlin, Katy Kaufmanis, and Adam Franklin


NicholsonJeanne Nicholson,
State Senator,
Majority Caucus Chair

Yvonne Pepping, Classified Staff Council President and the Information Supervisor at RRCC, started the meeting off.  She talked about programs they sponsor on campus such as the “Books For Benefaction,” staff solicits donated books which are sold with the proceeds going to charities such as the Channel 9 Health Fair, to honor fallen officers, purchase trees, landscaping, and donations to soup kitchens, etc. The event is held once per month.  In the future they hope to raise awareness about their programs and contributions to community.  They work on informing staff on what money was raised and where that money went.  They want to get their classified staff more involved in committees on their campus to report back to their constituents.

Lisa fowler, VP of Student Services at  RRCC, was up next and gave some information about the campus which serves 15k students with class size 20 or less.  She highlighted the physician’s assistance program which is nationally recognized.  Students in the program pass the national exams at a rate of 100%.  She also discussed their woodworking program and luthiery, a new and exciting program which draws students from across the nation and she mentioned the gateway program with over 600 students that serves former offenders from prison system.  In similar programs in the nation, 68% of participants go on to become repeat offenders, however the program at RRCC only has 3% repeat offender rate upon completion.  RRCC has several initiatives which focus on student success such as the creation of a call center using 100k from system funding.  They will also implement a mandatory first year experience course for all students.  Finally, RRCC is working on creating a Center of Inclusion and Diversity.

Guest speakers in February included Kenneth Johnson, DPA compensation officer, who provided a Talent Agenda Overview and Kristy Rudy, Acting Lead in the Compensation Department, who discussed HB12-1321, she gave details on the new merit pay structure and the states desire to compensate the lowest paid and highest performers. Skye Brunick, Lead Consulting Services, then spoke about Layoffs and Bumping Rights—Rule of 75.  Only those reaching the rule of 75 as of Jan. 1, 2013 are grandfathered in. Essentially seniority will be completely phased out so that there will eventually be zero certified employees in the classified system. She also discussed Post Employment Compensation. Employees being laid off can be placed in other positions or can search for positions elsewhere. Agencies have discretion to offer post employment compensation, they don't have to offer to everyone or for every position.  Examples agencies can utilize include severance pay, training, or priority hire list placement for one year. These changes were effective Sept. 1, 2012.  There are new rules that will be effective March 30, 2013 clarifying the rule of 75. The new rule is detailed in chapter 7 of state personnel rules. She then moved on to the Amendment S discussion and the Annual Compensation Survey – go to State Employee Resources.

Dennis Gatlin, Katy Kaufmanis, and Adam Franklin of PERA were next up. Adam Franklin, PERA’s interim co-general council, spoke of exemptions in higher education and the trend to continue exempting employees from the classified system. His perception is that the percentage is growing.  How will that affect PERA contributions?  Employees opting out have the option to stay in PERA if they have at least one year of PERA service.  Anyone coming in to exempt positions automatically go to the ORP (other retirement plan).  The employer is still required to contribute a portion to PERA even if the employee chooses the ORP.  Reality is that if people leave the system, it will negatively impact PERA however at this point it's minimal.  Most of PERA’s funding comes from its investments.  PERA is currently at a 25% loss in higher education contributors.  The law governs the rules on who has to contribute to PERA.  State division vs. school division: Trends over time are calculated into PERA’s decisions.  The PERA staff and PERA board are very focused on ensuring that retirees are fully funded.  They are looking at generating more bills like SB-1.  (Senate bill 1 - after economic down turn it was determined that PERA needed to change to maintain sustainability – SB-1 lengthened the time to vest in term, increased employer contributions, etc). New projections show that PERA will be fully funded in 30 years. Adam commented that everyone took a hit but SB-1 was a lifeline to secure PERA’s future so now the fund is safe.  Charts are changed periodically to correspond with the market and trends to meet the need.  There are 58,527 contributing members as of Aug. 31, 2012. That number increases daily.  It is expected and projected that to lose even all of the higher Ed contributors (9k) won't impact the fund enough to hurt PERA or PERA’s retirees. In the 1990s PERA was over funded then the tech bubble burst, PERA had many new contributors, contribution holidays, early retirement options, credit service purchases, and then we had the crash of 2008 which generated the greatest loss to PERA. Now PERA is 60% funded but they are working to become 100%.  Question should be "do you have a plan to become fully funded?"  PERA's annual report comes out in July.  2012 saw a 12% return.  PERA has 40 billion in real money and plan for an 8% return on investments + the new contributions which go to show the health of the PERA plan.  PERA has a very stable investment, diversified portfolio including timber, private equity, real estate, stocks, mutual funds, etc.  It is vastly less expensive for PERA to invest than for an average 401k or a private investor.  Currently it costs .25% for PERA to invest while the average fee is 1.25% for private investors.PERA currently has 100k beneficiaries pulling an avg. $2,800 benefit per month per person spread over the divisions.  Avg. age is of a PERA retiree is 60. The State division payout avg. $3,600 per month.  

Katy Kaufmanis, communications manager, answered the “What can we do to help PERA?” question.  She suggests we send emails, call legislators, have everyone be active to protect the PERA plan.  She discussed the legislative action center on their website and suggested we all register for alerts. She also talked about The Dime Blog, which is not about PERA but offers more about financial tips, money news, advice.  She also shared PERA’s FB page and asked us to Like them on Facebook and their site share with friends. Last year walker Stapleton attacked PERA and there was a lot of press over what he was saying.  He's pushing for PERA reform.  He is on the board of trustees by virtue of being the state tresurer.  He won't be the only one attacking.  Our vote and efforts to protect PERA are all that we can do to refute his and others like his argument.  He wants personal data to be available.  Adam and Katy think there will be something on the ballot to in the near future to change the board makeup, to open personal records, to change contribution rates, etc.  

The final guest speaker was Jeanne Nicholson, district 16 democratic state representative and caucus chair–mountain regions.She asked members to share what they feel are some issues she can help us with.  Some that came up: salary increases, staff exemptions and how that affects PERA,  health care and benefits consistent between agencies, limiting exemptions in higher ed, to have legislators remember us when they vote,  equal and fair treatment,  to have senators to remember that they work for us, retirement assurance, feel like the state employees always take the hit, to have them tell us more about why to stay a state employee,  need moral boost - need to feel valued, appreciated, raises would help and include us in decisions.