City mulls contracting election services

In a effort to cut costs, city council is considering contracting out municipal general election services.

In a effort to cut costs, city council is considering contracting out municipal general election services.

The city has put out a request for information to determine the feasibility of another party conducting the Nov. 19 election.

Joan Harrison, manager of legislative services and chief electoral officer for the March 26 byelection and 2008 general election, said the idea is still in the discussion stage.

“It came about through discussions at city hall. It’s something to think about,” she said. “It’s not actually a [request for proposal], it’s just seeing if there is somebody out there who is willing to do this.”

Mayor John Ruttan said council recognizes the taxpayers are calling for cost-cutting measures, and this is one avenue to see whether there is an opportunity to produce any savings.

“We want to make sure we’re going to save not only in dollar costs, but also the massive time commitment of our own staff in legislative services,” he said. “I know when we went through the byelection, we had a huge staff commitment. They were going flat out for about three months.”

The March 26 byelection cost the city about $100,000 and the 2008 general election came in at $148,140, with $37,000 contributed by the Nanaimo school district.

Ruttan said he would agree to contracting out the election, as long as there is a supporting business case for it.

“It would be wrong to go willy-nilly into an agreement without making sure that it’s something we aren’t able to handle ourselves as efficiently or more efficiently,” he said. “If we can’t save money, then we’re not going to do it.”

Harrison said there could be a number of variations of how the idea plays out.

“It could be the chief elections officer is a city employee and the deputy under contract, or vice versa. It could be all under contract or we could decide not to pursue it,” she said. “Certainly, the city would be very much involved in the process, but the relationship could change, partly depending on the background of someone who could potentially come forward.”

The City of Nanaimo contracted out its returning officer election duties in the mid-1980s when municipal elections were on two year terms.

Deadline for the information proposals is April 21.