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Cheap elections, 3-year terms don't mix for School District 67

School District 67 Trustee Shelley Clarke (right) listens to Trustee Linda Van Alphen during a special public board meeting on keeping election costs down. Alphen was voted to the board in a byelection costing somewhere between $20,000 to 30,000.
October 25, 2013 - 9:24 AM

PENTICTON - If School District 67 wants to save thousands of taxpayer dollars its trustee elections have to stay in-sync with municipal elections, even if held every four years instead of three.

Board trustee Walter Huebert said at Monday's special public meeting, four years is too long for school trustees to sit in office because changes come quickly and voters might want fresher ideas. A school closure could force amalgamation or a new industry bringing jobs would also mean overcrowding schools with hundreds of new students. A response by changing leadership would have to wait  an extra year for the polls.

"I think too much too happens in a municipal and rural setting," Huebert said for the term to be four years. "However, should the provincial government go to four years I think the trustees would have little choice in the matter."

If School District 67 doesn't stay in sync with municipal elections, and sticks with three-year terms, it could cost thousands of dollars and too many votes. Trustee Shelley Clarke ran in a byelection and it cost the board between $20,000 and $30,000. Sharing polling space and advertising costs with towns and cities mean lower electoral bills and higher voter turnout.

This is why School District 67 reluctantly decided to support the British Columbia School Trustees Association if it supports the union's move to get provincial OK for four-year terms. The association's members meet in Vancouver this December for workshops and policy meetings.

The push for a longer term comes from the Union of B.C. Municipalities which wants elections every four years instead of three to avoid costly contests to replace community leaders who ran for MLA positions. Former Penticton mayor Dan Ashton did just that forcing the city to hold a byelection. Ashton has promised to cover the city's costs however. It's not something that usually happens.

If municipal and provincial elections happen in the same year, but still months apart, towns and cities could replace missing councilors and mayors during normal election season thus avoiding an expsensive by-election.

To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca, call 250-488-3065, tweet @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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