April 28, 2011 9:05 AM
Brooke Edwards
Staff Writer

VICTORVILLE • When Amy Lyn De Zwart opted for an early retirement from the Victor Valley Water District in 2005, it was with the comfort that her health insurance premiums would be covered for life.

After all, that’s what she’d been promised when she was hired as the district’s Human Resources director nine years before. The district used that benefit as a recruiting tool to lure new talent.

But last week, De Zwart and three other former employees who now live outside California received a letter from Victorville City Manager Jim Cox letting them know their benefits would be cut off July 1.

Cox stated the coverage “is a cost burden our residents can no longer bear.” It’s a position many public agencies are finding themselves in, unable to afford generous benefit packages approved when times were good.

De Zwart attributes the reversal to “more fallout from the city of Victorville’s fiscal mismanagement.”

“When I took early retirement in July 2005 to move to Utah to get married, the district had a reserve fund of $12 (million) or $13 million and, as I recall, was debt free,” De Zwart said via email. “Alas, the city of Victorville cannot claim such a stellar record, and out-of-state VVWD retirees (as well as many others) are, literally, paying the price.”

Now the city has offered to pay her and two other former employees a one-time $5,753 buyout — or about a year’s worth of payments — if she agrees to waive future benefits even if she were to move back to California.

The change will cost Victorville $17,260 now, according to city clerk Carolee Bates, with three of the four employees eligible for payouts. Then, Bates said, it will save the city $22,297 annually.

To read more about the original retirement agreement and the current city offer, see the full story in Thursday’s Daily Press. Get complete stories every day with the “exactly as printed” Daily Press E-edition, only $5 per month! Click here to try it free for 7 days. To subscribe to the Daily Press in print or online, call (760) 241-7755, 1-800-553-2006 or click here.

Brooke Edwards may be reached at (760) 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.