When Falcon School District 49 announced it may end free bus service because of budget woes, I wasn't surprised. I'd been working on a story about the Public Employees' Retirement Association and knew school districts' contributions to employee pensions were rising at meteoric rates.
Sure enough, Falcon spokeswoman Stephanie Meredith confirms that PERA funding was part of the problem.
So Falcon might be just the beginning. If PERA isn't changed dramatically, experts say, cities, counties and school districts across Colorado, not to mention the state itself, will have to cut deep to free up money for retirees. This might include curtailing street repairs, eliminating parks maintenance, closing prisons and, yes, even layoffs.
As a kid in a small town, I noticed the postmaster lived in a shabby house; his kids didn't have much. I asked my mom, "How come?" She said that as a government worker, his pay was terrible, but he could look forward to a comfortable retirement. Made sense, I thought. Through the years, though, public employees' pay has risen dramatically, and so have their pensions.
It's noble work to serve us, the public. But one wonders at what point it becomes the reverse: We, the public, serving public employees.