Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Inside Colorado PERA

Honoring the Important Work of Colorado’s Public Employees

Photo credits: Colorado PERA, Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The first week of May is Public Service Recognition Week, a time to celebrate and honor the millions of local, state and federal employees who serve communities across the United States every day.

Supporting Colorado’s public employees is a daily mission for PERA, which provides retirement and other benefits to more than 620,000 current and former teachers, state troopers, corrections officers, snow plow drivers, and other public workers. PERA’s mission is to provide retirement security to its members while ensuring the stability of the fund.

PERA’s membership is split into five divisions, with most members participating in the Defined Benefit Plan (some state and local government employees have the option to choose between the Defined Benefit Plan and the Defined Contribution Plan). In the DB plan, each division has its own trust fund that pays benefits for that division. Member and employer contributions to each fund are pooled and invested to ensure that each division’s members — whether public school teachers, state employees, local government workers, or judges — can rely on regular, monthly income they won’t outlive in retirement.

While each PERA division encompasses a different range of careers, each provides vital services to keep Colorado communities thriving.

PERA’s membership is split into five divisions: State, School, Denver Public Schools, Local Government and Judicial.

School Division

The School Division is by far PERA’s largest, with more than 128,000 active members in 2022. That’s more than half of the total active membership. It’s also the division with the largest number of benefit recipients — more than 72,000.

School Division members include teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, school administrators and other staff of public schools across Colorado, from Adams County to Yuma County. Public school employees carry out the important work of educating, transporting, feeding and supporting thousands of children every day, helping them learn and develop into contributing members of society.

Employees of Boards of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES), which provide various services to multiple districts, are also members of the School Division.

Denver Public Schools Division

Denver Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, had its own retirement system until 2010, when it merged with PERA. Because of the unique nature of merging the DPS plan into PERA, its members remain in a separate division from other school districts, with some differences in rules and regulations.

The DPS division includes more than 15,000 active members and more than 7,000 benefit recipients.

State Division

The second largest PERA division, the State Division, includes more than 54,000 active members from a wide variety of professions that provide important services in every corner of the state. This division includes lawmakers and legislative staff at the State Capitol, as well as employees of various state agencies, such as the departments of transportation, public safety, military and veterans affairs, and agriculture. The State Division also includes Colorado’s many institutions of higher education, from local community colleges to the state’s major research universities.

State troopers, snow plow drivers, park rangers, social workers, corrections officers, college professors and other State Division employees work every day to keep Colorado communities safe, healthy and vibrant places to live.

Local Government Division

Equally important as the state employees who keep Colorado running are the nearly 13,000 Local Government Division employees who power cities and towns across the state. That includes not only government staff but also employees of various utility and sanitation districts, housing authorities, libraries, health departments and fire protection districts.

Local government workers help build, maintain and protect the quality of life that so many of Colorado’s communities are known for.

Judicial Division

The Judicial Division is PERA’s smallest, with fewer than 400 active members. Most courthouse workers in Colorado fall under the State Division, so the Judicial Division covers only judges. The division includes judges who preside over county courtrooms, the Court of Appeals, the Colorado Supreme Court and the 1st through 22nd district courts.

Judicial Division judges have the important task of administering justice in Colorado by overseeing criminal trials, civil cases, probate proceedings, juvenile offenses and much more.

Whatever their division and employer, every PERA member provides an important public service that supports all of Colorado. And when they retire, PERA will be here to provide reliable income and other benefits to ensure every public employee can enter their golden years with peace of mind.

Follow PERA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more on Public Service Recognition Week.

Defined benefitA mandatory retirement savings plan in which a participant’s future benefits are known or can be calculated, but contributions are subject to adjustments. Defined contributionA voluntary plan in which participants can save pre-tax income for retirement. Contributions are “defined” by the employee, but the future benefit is not guaranteed.


  1. Barry Thorpe says:

    “….. And when they retire, PERA will be here to provide reliable income and other benefits to ensure every public employee can enter their golden years with peace of mind.”

    Inflation 9.6%. “Guaranteed Annual 3.5% increase =1%)
    Enough patting yourselves on the back. PERA has failed in its fiduciary role by rescinding contractual agreements in a temporary economic downturn, and has failed to re-pay the taking if earned benefits, even after ten years of overwhelming economic growth.

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