The Yellowknife Educational District No.1 board of trustees met for their monthly meeting on Feb. 12 and voted on extending the term of trustees to four years instead of three. The motion passed unanimously.
Last October, as a part of the municipal election, the public voted on to extend councillor and mayoral terms from three years to four. School board trustees have historically piggybacked on the city’s numeration system and held their elections together. Now the board will be moving towards keeping the elections in sync.
Trustee Rajiv Rawat said the benefits were too great not to support.
“Normally I would vote for election reform or proportional representation instead, but these are things I would encourage,” Rawat said. “This (term extension) is a mechanics issue and running a separate election would cost at least as much as running the board for the entire year.”
Tram Do, Director of Corporate Services, explained that there was a preliminary cost analysis of running a separate election. The analysis found the cost for Yk 1 and the Yellowknife Catholic School Board would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“If we were to run our own numeration system and hold our own elections with our own numeration systems, the cost would be roughly $100,000 per trustee position on Yk 1 and YCS,” Do said. “If we keep our elections in sync with the city and use their data systems, the cost would be about $20,000 per trustee position.”
All vocal trustees agreed the cost would be too great and that money would be better spent.
“As a trustee the number one duty is to make sure the money goes to schools, to the kids to the programs and services we offer,” trustee Satish Garikaparthi said. “By running our own election it will cost us significant time and money. Running along with the city is a win-win situation.”
Another large concern for running a separate election would be the lack of voter participation.
“If we are on a separate cycle, people get election fatigued,” trustee Terry Brookes said. “Would we get a lot of turnout? I don’t think so. To get people out to make sure we are accountable to the public, because we are a public board, I will be in favour of the term extension.”
Board chair John Stephenson said the board has historically had low participation from the public and having a separate election would be unlikely to improve matters.
“There is already a generally low turnout for elections in the city, so to have a completely separate election would probably have an even lower turn out,” Stephenson said.
Moving forward Yk 1 will continue to be in contact with the Yellowknife Catholic School Board, who will hold a motion in their board meeting on Feb. 20.
“Our motion on Wednesday (Feb. 20) will be the same as the Yk 1 board, to extend our terms,” Claudia Parker, Superintendent of YCS, said. “The reason for that is financial. We don’t have the capacity to run a full election ourselves.”
Together the boards will make a recommendation to the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment that term extensions are put into legislation.
“I’ve informed the Minister of our plans to move this to a motion,” Stephenson said. “They have a fairly hefty legislative agenda in front of this current government until the next election in the fall. It would be the next government’s purview to consider this is a part of their legislative process.”
Should a four-year term for school board trustees be accepted, the current trustees would see their terms increased by one year.