The Idyllwild Water District took its first step in its year-long review and possible modification of employee benefits. At its March 20 meeting, the board revised the health care policy for retired employees.

The annual savings to the district will be more than $11,000. Retirees will still have health insurance, but Medicare will become the primary insurer and the district will provide supplement insurance.

During the discussion, which both current and retired employees attended, former General Manager Tom Lovejoy and supervisor Herb Bergstrom acknowledged the need to save money and expressed their satisfaction with the district’s process.

“I appreciate the approach the board is taking and understand why,” Lovejoy said. “You’ve been overpaying a lot. The steps you’re taking are fair and acceptable to us.”

Board President Allan Morphett stressed that the district wants and intends to provide this benefit to retired employees and spouses, but also has to be stewards of the public’s funds. IWD will invite a health insurance broker to come and discuss the various options available to the retirees.

The current IWD health insurance plan does not offer separate policies for current employees and retirees. Consequently, the agency was paying the same premium for both employees and retirees, although the latter, who are over age 65, are eligible for Medicare.

Shifting its policy for retirees will save the district nearly $950 monthly and $11,300 annually.

The board also decided to use Tom Dodson and Associates of San Bernardino to prepare an environmental analysis for the proposed water recycling facility. His proposal saved the district about $5,700. Dodson’s firm has performed other environmental work for the district.

“We were informed by the [State Water Resources Control Board] staff they will want to use our project as a showcase’ project,” General Manager Terry Lyons told the board. In addition, the control board staff intends to test a fast-track funding application and approval process with the IWD grant request, Lyons added.

The district’s total revenues have exceeded costs by $24,500 through February. Water sales have essentially met the original forecasts despite water production being down 1.3 million gallons compared from fiscal year 2010-11.

The board also established a new subcommittee to review rules, regulation and resolution. Directors John Cook and Warren Monroe will compose the subcommittee.