City Council Meeting Procedures: A Step-by-Step Guide

City council meetings take up a lot of time due to broad agendas, requiring a lot of discussions and participation from city officials, employees, and the public. So it’s no surprise that these meetings run for two to three hours, surpassing their scheduled time. That often translates into less time to focus on more critical issues. That’s why having well-crafted city council meeting procedures to follow during meetings is key to maximizing efficiency and covering all agenda items.

The most effective and successful cities follow a repeatable and proven process. But the process isn’t necessarily the same for every city. Therefore, each city council needs to adopt procedures for conducting city council meetings with their own rules that particularly work for them and serve their purpose.

What are City Council Meeting Procedures?

A city council is the legislative policy-making body of a city or municipality government, comprising democratically elected individuals charged with the responsibility of running the city. The council enacts ordinances, resolutions, and orders necessary for executing the city’s affairs, including:

  • Approving or amending annual budgets
  • Authorizing contracts
  • Acting as the final appeal body on commissions rulings
  • Appointing the City Manager or Mayor, City Attorney, City commissioners, and committee members.

All these functions, among others, are effected during city council meetings where the mayor, selected from one of the City Council’s members, is the presiding officer.

Joining or working for the city council allows one to make a difference by doing something tangible for the local community. You get the chance to propose and integrate ideas to make the local community a better place. While helping the public appeal to the local and state government, becoming a council opens doors for higher government positions.

Every city council’s success relies on the effectiveness of its meeting procedures, and eScribe is here to ensure you achieve this. With our powerful, purpose-built, customizable meeting manager, meetings can easily reach their full potential.

City council meetings should be procedural to reduce wastage, ensure every critical is addressed, and encourage public participation. Below are crucial procedures for successful and productive city council meetings.

1. Capture Meeting Attendance

State laws usually require city councils and municipalities to specify city council meeting dates. However, the mayor or a certain number of council members can call for special meetings. Before each meeting begins, the mayor or the clerk notes everyone in attendance and invites them to the meeting. This is a roll of everyone in attendance.

Making a list of the attendees, especially officials and other public representatives like HOA heads, is essential when officials need to sign off on any actions taken during the meeting. Therefore, capturing attendance is an integral part of recording agenda items.

2. Call Meeting to Order

The chairperson has taken the roll call and officially commences the meeting by declaring that “the meeting will now come to order.” At this stage, they go through the previous meeting minutes for accountability, give an account of council actions, and enable the attendees to measure the council’s progress.

The chair then puts across the current meeting’s agenda, specifying everything to be discussed or acted upon during the meeting. The agenda must contain sufficient detail for everyone to understand and help the public decide whether or not to attend the meeting.

In the United States, open meeting laws necessitate that the public access the agenda for review for a minimum of 24 hours before the meeting.

3. Old or Unfinished Business

The current meeting’s agenda includes any unresolved, unfinished, or old business carried forward for discussion or action in the current meeting. The old business will appear in both the current and old meeting agendas. For instance, topics discussed during the previous meeting that weren’t voted on are considered unfinished or old business. These topics should be automatically added to the current meeting’s agenda.

4. New Business

New business refers to any issue that’s new to the current meeting. These issues are usually discussed near the tail end of the meeting. New business can be planned or spontaneous. Planned new business may include ideas or issues discussed and proposed by the mayor and council members before the meeting. Unplanned new business, on the other hand, are ideas presented during the meeting by the attendees with the permission of the chair.

5. Public Participation

City council meetings allow residents to air their ideas or issues. The public city council must allow the public to participate in meetings as provided by law.

Unplanned new business is one way to encourage public participation. The chair allows any individual to address the city council on any issue it might not have addressed on the current meeting’s agenda. In some states, individuals may need to complete a speaker card and deliver it to the clerk before the meeting commences for records and regulation purposes.

6. Meeting Adjournment

Once everything’s been discussed, the mayor is free to adjourn the meeting. Sometimes, a council member may call a motion to adjourn, members may second, and the council may vote to adjourn. A council meeting will likely be adjourned after the time designated for the meeting lapses unless there’s official communication to proceed.

Enhance Board Management to Drive City Council Effectiveness with eScribe Meetings Solutions

City council meetings are a good way for the council and the public to articulate issues and drive local development. However, these meetings need to be procedural and purposeful to avoid wasting time. The best way to achieve this is through a digital meeting management solution that you can customize to meet your city council meeting procedures.

Learn more about the growing necessity of going digital with your meeting management processes.