City councils are the legislators of a municipality who are democratically elected to decide which services will be provided and how to pay for them, among many other tasks.
As local legislators, councilmembers are responsible for and responsive to the citizens who elected them. Depending on the city’s charter and state laws, they may perform the following functions:
- Review and approve the annual budget;
- Establish long- and short-term objectives and priorities;
- Oversee performance of the local public employees;
- Oversee effectiveness of programs;
- Establish tax rates;
- Enter into legal contracts;
- Borrow funds;
- Pass ordinances and resolutions;
- Modify the city’s charter;
- Regulate land use through zoning laws;
- Regulate business activity through licensing and regulations;
- Regulate public health and safety;
- Exercise the power of eminent domain;
- Communicate policies and programs to residents;
- Respond to constituent needs and complaints; and
- Represent the community to other levels of government.
Council members typically receive modest compensation for their work, usually because they serve on a part-time basis.