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The Duties of a City Commissioner

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The city commission is a local governing body usually headed by a city’s mayor. Although different municipalities have varying roles for commissioners in their cities, the main functions of the commission remain similar among them. These elected officials are basically in charge of overseeing the running of the local government.

Policies and Ordinances

City commissioners work with one another in meetings to develop and enact policies and ordinances for their city by voting on them. These actions bring about changes in existing laws specific to the community or they develop new laws that the commission believes will help the city function better in some way.

Some commissions include a mayor who is merely a single vote in the policy or ordinance-making process. This is known as a “weak mayor,” according to Other cities have a mayor with a stronger role that must approve actions by the commissioners. These commissions must work closely with the mayor to develop meaningful policy changes that will not be wiped away by the mayor’s veto power.

Tax Rates

City commissioners decide on the local tax rate on businesses. They take into consideration the affects of a tax hike and weigh it against the benefit the city will reap from the increased revenue. These taxes, whether it is a modification of an existing tax or the introduction of a new tax, are often planned to fund specific programs in the city. The commissioners may also enact these new programs.

Identify Local Issues

One of the important duties of a city commissioner is to identify issues within the city that need to be addressed. Commissioners should have strong knowledge of their districts and the needs of their voters. The commissioner acts as a liaison between the public and the city government to help make changes that will benefit the citizens. Sometimes actions that will benefit one contingency may appear simply as a waste of money or resources to another. The ability to effectively debate and garner support for these issues is an important quality for a commissioner.


The city has a budget that should be balanced. It is the job of the commission to develop the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and see that it is properly funded in order to keep the city in a good financial condition. The city is treated much like a business in this respect and should work to at least break even each year if possible.

Pay Rates

The city commissioners are responsible for setting the pay rates for city employees, from public works laborers all the way to the city executive positions such as the mayor. The commissioners should try to keep all employee compensation in line with inflation while preventing overspending in the budget on salaries. A city commission may elect to cut positions in order to save money or add needed positions when it is fiscally possible.


Lee Morgan is a fiction writer and journalist. His writing has appeared for more than 15 years in many news publications including the "Tennesseean," the "Tampa Tribune," "West Hawaii Today," the "Honolulu Star Bulletin" and the "Dickson Herald," where he was sports editor. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University.

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