On June 6, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law House Bill 17-1176, which relaxes the limitations on rural school districts’ hiring of Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) retirees who want to receive full retirement benefits. Previously, the law restricted PERA retirees to working no more than 110 or 140 days in any calendar year while continuing to receive full benefits. Retirees can now enter contracts for any length of employment in a calendar year with rural school districts to be employed as teachers, school bus drivers or food service cooks without suffering any reduction in benefits so long as certain requirements are met.
The bill primarily amends C.R.S. § 24-51-1101 by adding a new subsection 1.9, which applies only to “rural school districts.” The Colorado Department of Education defines “rural school districts” as those based on their geographic size and distance from the nearest large, urbanized area that enroll 6,500 students or fewer in kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition to satisfying the previous requirements for the hiring of a PERA retiree, including ensuring that the retiree has not worked for a school district during the month of the retiree’s effective date of retirement, rural school districts must satisfy the following requirements to employ a retiree on a full-time basis pursuant to this new law:
- Determine that there is a critical shortage of qualified teachers, school bus drivers, or school food service cooks, as applicable, and that the retiree (candidate) has specific experience, skills, or qualifications from which the district will benefit.
- Hire the retiree (candidate) for the purposes of providing classroom instruction, as a school bus driver for students enrolled in the district, or school food service cook.
If these conditions are met, rural school districts can hire a retiree on a full-time basis for up to six consecutive years from the retiree’s first date of employment with the rural school district. However, a retired teacher who has not met the age and service credit requirements for full PERA retirement benefits may not be employed by the rural school district from which the teacher retired until two years after the teacher’s date of retirement from that district.
Rural school districts must continue to comply with all other PERA rules and regulations regarding employer and employee contributions on the salary paid to retirees hired pursuant to this new law. In addition, while employed, retirees are eligible and should be offered the opportunity to participate in the rural school district’s health plan. Those rural districts employing teachers, school bus drivers, and school food service cooks pursuant to this new law will be required to report to PERA such information as the number of retirees hired to fill these positions and whether the new law has helped rural school districts to address shortages of these employees.
If you have any questions or would like further guidance as to how these changes may affect your district, please do not hesitate to contact an education attorney at 303-443-8010.