Cities are required to complete a number of items at the beginning of the year as well as a few other things that may not be explicitly required but are often done in the first few weeks.
City Council Meeting Schedule and Review of Meeting Procedures/Rules
One of the first items the city council will want to address is a meeting schedule for the coming year, which is adopted by ordinance. Many cities opt for a regular meeting schedule based on certain days and weeks of the month (first and third Mondays of the month or second Tuesday of the month, for example) that is easy for city officials and citizens to remember.
The schedule should also reflect the possibility of special council meetings or work sessions. While it is sometimes impossible to know when these will be needed, some special meetings are fairly common, such as city budget meetings and work sessions. It is also wise to look at the proposed meeting schedule on a calendar to determine whether any conflicts with holidays can be avoided and if the schedule needs to be adjusted.
The council may want to also review current meeting procedures that govern council meetings, such as how agendas are set, how discussion is to be conducted and how votes are to occur. While this is especially important for new council members, it is also a helpful refresher for returning members. After review and consideration, the council may opt to amend the rules for the next year. See our Council Meeting Procedures page for additional guidance.
City Council and Staff Orientations
The beginning of the year is always a good time to provide orientations for council members and city employees. While these are likely designed for newer city officials, veteran council and staff members can also benefit. Orientations for council members will likely focus on reviewing the city code and policies, priorities and goals, planning documents, meeting rules and procedures, and the city’s budget and financial reports. In addition, a tour of city facilities and operations as well as meeting with city employees is beneficial for council members. Likewise, orientations for city employees will help everyone gain an understanding of what they and their coworkers do every day and how the city operates. See our Newly Elected Officials page for additional information.
Appointments and Reappointments (Boards, Commissions, Committees, City Officials)
A common task in the first few weeks for mayors and council members is to appoint individuals to the various boards, committees and commissions that help craft city policy and provide a link between the council and citizens. It is common for cities to have at least a library board, planning and zoning commission, and board of adjustment. No matter how many boards a city has it is wise to review the current appointments and determine which have expiring terms and need new appointments. There is a state law requiring boards and commissions to be gender-balanced; the law allows a city to have an unbalanced board if they have made a good faith effort to achieve gender balance by attempting to find a qualified person of the necessary gender for a period of three months.
Several positions in the city might also require an appointment or reappointment. Section 372.13(3) of the Code of Iowa requires city councils to appoint a city clerk and the council can determine whether a reappointment of the current clerk is needed each year. Under the Mayor-Council form of government, the chief of police is required to be appointed by the mayor, subject to council approval. Cities that employ a city administrator likely appoint an individual through council action. Other positions that might require an appointment or reappointment include finance officer, city engineer, building official, city attorney and fire chief.
Annual Wage Publication
Cities are required to publish the wages of its employees either monthly or annually. In lieu of publishing a list of wage claims monthly, the State Auditor’s Office has suggested that cities can satisfy the publication requirement by annually publishing the gross salary figure of its employees. Many cities opt to publish the annual wages either in January due to working on W-2s or in July when the new fiscal year begins.
Many cities annually renew the various contracts they have that insure the city’s employees, buildings and equipment. While these contracts may not all begin and end around January, it is still a good time to take a look to see how things stand. Health insurance renewals are often handled separately due to such policies typically operating on a calendar year basis, and cities must send notice to employees about their coverage options. Along with that, if the city has any new council members or a new employee that will handle any city funds, those individuals will need to be added to the city’s “errors and omissions” insurance policy
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form W-2 must be sent to each employee of the city by the end of January. Cities must also file either electronic or paper W-2s with the Social Security Administration by January 31. New for the tax year 2020, employers will be required to use Form 1099-NEC for most nonemployee compensation reporting. The form must be sent by the end of January to any vendor or contractor the city has issued total payments in excess of $600 during the previous year. This will be in addition to IRS Form 1099-MISC, which may still be needed to be completed and filed (in particular, to report gross proceeds to attorneys, such as when a settlement is received). Cities must also file electronic or paper 1099s with the IRS by January 31 (1099-MISC has a later deadline of March 31). Employers must also file its W-2s and 1099s electronically with the Iowa Department of Revenue.
In addition to insurance renewals, cities have numerous other contracts to keep an eye on. Many cities partner with other governmental entities through 28E agreements for various reasons that should be reviewed on an annual basis at a minimum. It is also likely that a city has a variety of service contracts for items such as snow removal, mowing/landscaping, engineering services, information technology, custodial and much more. While these contracts may not come due early in the year, they need to be reviewed periodically to ensure the terms are being met. Doing so early in the year also helps with the city’s budgeting efforts.