National Association of State Retirement Administrators


The Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association administers pension and other benefits for state employees, public school teachers, and employees (except non-public safety personnel) of political subdivisions that elected to participate. The System administers separate plans for state employees, school employees, local governments, and judges. School employees comprise approximately 62% of all active members. New state hires since January 1, 2006, may choose between a defined benefit plan or a defined contribution plan administered by PERA; the legislature extended this arrangement to higher education faculty and staff beginning with those hired in 2008. PERA also administers a voluntary 401(k) plan.

The Denver Public Schools Retirement System administers pension and other benefits for all full-time employees of the Denver School District. The system was merged into Colorado PERA effective January 1, 2010.

The Colorado Fire & Police Pension Association provides pension, disability, and defined contribution plans for employees of municipal fire and police plans and volunteer fire plans that elected to participate.

Authorizing Statute

24-51-201 of the Colorado Statutes creates the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association:

There is hereby created the public employees retirement association, for the purposes of providing the benefits and programs specified in this article, which shall be a body corporate with the right to sue and be sued and the right to hold property for its use and purposes.

Board Composition


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Ex Officio

Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association







24-51-203 establishes the COPERA Board

The board shall consist of the following fifteen trustees:

  • The state treasurer;

  • Four members of the state division elected by that division;

  • Five members of the school division elected by that division;

  • Two members of the local government division elected by that division;

  • One member of the judicial division elected by members of that division;

  • Two retirees, one of whom shall be elected by those who have retired from the local government division, the judicial division, or from the state division and one whom shall be elected by members who have retired from the local government division, the judicial division, or the school division;

  • Three trustees appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate.[3]

Section18-405 creates the Retirement Board

The retirement board shall consist of five (5) voting members, all of whom shall be appointed by the mayor. The terms of office shall be six (6) years, and the members of the retirement board shall be eligible for reappointment. Any vacancy in the membership of the retirement board shall be promptly filled for the unexpired portion of the term by appointment by the mayor.


Per the U.S. Census, in FY 2015, employer contributions to Colorado state and local government pension plans were 3.11 percent of all state and local government direct general spending.

Constitutional Protections

Courts applied state constitutional protection against impairment of contract in Art. 2, §11 to protect vested pension benefits. Until benefits fully vest, pension benefits can be changed. For benefits that are only partially vested, any adverse change must be balanced by a corresponding change of a beneficial nature, an actuarially necessary change, or a change that strengthens or improves the pension plan. If a plan amendment fails to satisfy any of these three criteria, it is an unconstitutional impairment of existing contract rights. See Police Pension & Relief Board v. Bills, 366 P.2d 581 (1961); Peterson v. Fire & Police Pension Ass'n., 759 P.2d 720 (Colo. 1988); Mcinerney v. Public Employees' Retirement Ass'n, 976 P.2d 348 (Colo App.1998)(in Colorado rights accruing under a pension plan are contractual obligations protected under state and federal constitutions; retirement pay becomes a vested right when an employee complied with the conditions imposed entitling the employee to the receipt of retirement benefits). In 2011, the state trial court in Justus v. State, Case No. 201OCV1589, distinguished between COLA benefits and base benefits in approving a unilateral reduction of the COLA formula. Reversed on contract grounds in 2012 by Court of Appeals, 2012 WL 4829545. [CO CONST., Article 2, §11 (not explicit protection of public pensions; basic protection against impairment of contract)] Source: Robert Klausner, Esq., State Constitutional Protections for Public Sector Retirement Benefits

Flag of Colorado(December 4, 1911)

Population (2022) 5,839,926

Colorado public pension statistics, per U.S. Census Bureau as of FY 2022 ($ in 000s)



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