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JB Phillips

School Division Candidate

Middle School Computer Science Teacher in Mesa County Valley School District 51

This information has not been edited by PERA. Please read the information carefully so that you can make an informed decision.

The deadline to vote is May 31, 2022.

Responses to Questions

Question 1: Interest on Serving on the PERA Board
Please briefly describe why you are interested in being elected to the PERA Board of Trustees.

There are many benefits to serving on this board or any other. Other members have served for PERA during the 27 years I have worked in Colorado. This is an opportunity to give back by taking a turn doing the difficult work of maintaining a healthy PERA profile. For my personal benefit, it is intellectually challenging to engage in work on complex issues that require sharp thinking and cooperation with thoughtful, intelligent people. The work of this board impacts such a large number of Coloradans that it would be an honor to be a part of the work.

Question 2: Views on PERA’s Mission/Vision
PERA’s mission is to provide retirement security for our members while ensuring the sustainability of the fund. PERA’s vision is to innovate and build on a tradition of service by being a trusted partner in order to meet the changing needs of our diverse membership. Please share your thoughts on these ideals.

There is a delicate balance between sustainability and adequate service. Innovation will be key. As retirees negotiate new environs caused by changes in health care, inflation, and the rising cost of housing in Colorado, the PERA Board will need to advocate for changes in legislation, changes in retirement packaging, and offering options for its members. The key is knowing how existing decisions have impacted retirees but also how new professionals view the current Colorado retirement program, which is very different than 30 years ago. A retirement package that once prevented teachers, for instance, from moving elsewhere, may now seem ordinary.

Question 3: Funded Status—Challenges/Opportunities
Please describe what you consider as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing PERA in the next 4-5 years related to the funded status.

Large numbers of workers are leaving their fields to retire or work outside PERA. In education, for example, teachers are leaving in record numbers, and money toward school districts is decreasing, leaving schools to cut employees. Fewer employees means less money going into PERA, and benefits costs are increasing. Retiree longevity adds an unknown to the formula, but it likely means more benefit payout than current levels. Inflation is creating challenges, and the possibility of economic downturn due to political actions at the national level could create havoc in the stock market, putting PERA investments at risk. 

Question 4: Serving the PERA Membership—Challenges/Opportunities
Please describe what you consider as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing PERA in the next 4-5 years related to serving the membership.

As with any choices related to finance, PERA could face very difficult times if the economy cannot sustain its current trend. The economic downturn in 2008 greatly impacted people reaching the end of their careers. Their investments outside of PERA fell sharply, their real estate values dropped, and many had to either return to work, postpone retirement, or find additional work. Many failed to see how expensive health care would be. PERA has an opportunity to be a trusted resource to help its members avoid surprises that many members did not foresee in the 2008 era.

Question 5: Challenges/Opportunities Facing PERA
Please describe what you consider as other areas of challenge/opportunity facing PERA.

The pandemic, inflation, the “Great Resignation,” national politics, and the stock market all could converge to allow entities opportunities to think differently. Never before has our state and nation been forced to think flexibly with innovation in mind since the pandemic began. This could be a great opportunity but also a potentially devastating convergence of factors. The PERA Board must look for opportunities with broad thinking and open minds yet always keep in mind the risks and the importance of a sustainable financial system.