B.C.'s education minister has told the Chilliwack school board he can't set aside legislation requiring it to replace one of its trustees, and the board now faces a November byelection and $50,000 in unbudgeted costs.
Louise Piper surprised the board with her resignation Aug. 23.
The former board chair had stopped attending meetings in January because of undisclosed medical reasons, but she had been expected to resume her trustee duties last month.
Although the School Act requires byelections to be held for trustees who resign before Jan. 1 of a school election year (in this case 2014), the board had hoped Education Minister Peter Fassbender could waive that requirement because of how close the resignation came to the cutoff date.
But the board was told this week the minister is powerless to intervene and a byelection would have to go ahead.
At a public meeting Tuesday, the board passed the necessary election bylaw and authorized the City of Chilliwack to run the byelection for the board as per a standing agreement under the Local Government Act.
City staff have estimated the election will cost $50,000, according to School District No. 33's new secretary-treasurer Gerry Slykhuis.
"It's a shame because you could put $50,000 into something else, but that's the
price of democracy," he told the Times. "Elections cost money. Having a democratic government costs money and that's part of it."
The expense could have been avoided, however, had Piper waited until Jan. 1 to step down.
"Had we received the resignation at that time, it would have negated the need for the byelection," board chair Walt Krahn told the Times.
He said he and vice-chair Silvia Dyck had sat down with Piper on Aug. 21 and "shared the ramifications of what could happen" if she resigned before January, but her letter of resignation was received two days later.
"Obviously we hadn't planned this," Krahn said. "This is a bit of a curve that has come our way, but we'll do the best we'll possibly can."
On behalf of the board, Krahn thanked Piper for her four years of service and wished her a "full and complete restoration to good health."
He also noted that, at Piper's own request, she had not been paid her trustee's stipend since April.
The nomination period for the byelection will run from Oct. 15 to 25.
General voting will take place Nov. 30, with advance voting days set for Nov. 20 and 23.
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