Despite an election just 14 months away, Chilliwack Board of Education has been ordered it must call a byelection to replace outgoing trustee Louise Piper.
The board had hoped the ministry of education would approve a “special circumstances” request to overrule the school act and allow the board to continue with six trustees instead of seven for the remainder of the term.
However, Section 36 of the school act states a byelection must be held to fill a vacancy on a board if a trustee resigns prior to Jan. 1 of an election year. And because of the word “must” used in the directive, the ministry of education told the board Tuesday it would not be fulfilling its request.
“I am very disappointed,” said board chair Walt Krahn. “This will take a fair amount of focus away from the work we do here, and we will also have to incur the expense of the election on our own.”
For regular elections, the school district partners with the City of Chilliwack and shares the costs. However, secretary-treasurer Gerry Slykhuis estimated the cost of the byelection to be around $50,000, of which the school district will solely be responsible for.
“In some ways [the expense accrued from a byelection] is worse because we are not sharing the cost with the City,” said Slykhuis. “It’s almost as costly as a full election.”
The expense will mostly cover the costs of staffing voting stations and hiring a chief elections officer and deputy elections officer.
The nomination period is from Oct. 15-25.
The byelection is Nov. 30.
Louise Piper took medical leave in January of this year. The district stopped paying her a salary in April, at her request. On Aug. 23, she resigned.
Piper had been a trustee for four years and was in her second term on the board.