The list of duties that a municipal clerk has to do far surmounts the available hours in the day to get things done. Clerks respond to citizen’s requests, pull documents, develop council meeting agendas, and in general, keep the office humming. One of the most time-consuming duties for city clerks is setting up council meetings. The entire meeting centers around one extremely important document—the agenda.
Clerks have to prioritize agenda items so that the council addresses all the important business first. That’s challenging because they usually have so many items on the agenda to address.
Many of the items are routine in nature and there’s a way to address them during a council meeting that helps to get through them a bit faster. A consent agenda is a governance tool that streamlines some of the items on the agenda. To be even more efficient, meeting and agenda management software go the extra distance in effective, efficient governance.
What Is a Consent Agenda?
A consent agenda is also known as a consent calendar. Consider, for a moment, the amount of time that you spend at every meeting just in reviewing and approving routine, recurring agenda times. Think about how many items on your agenda need to be approved or voted on that everyone already agrees on and don’t require any discussion.
A consent agenda is a timesaving tool that ensures that council meetings are well-organized and efficient. Municipal councils that use a consent agenda template could save up to 30 minutes by approving several items at once. This process frees up meeting time for discussions about matters that require the most time, attention, and deliberation, such as how the group can move forward with planning that will impact the lives of their citizens.
A consent agenda groups routine meeting agenda items into one agenda item. It doesn’t require multiple motions. The council can pass or approve all the items in the consent agenda with one motion.
How to Implement a Consent Agenda
Before anything can happen, the administrator has to adopt a rule of order that allows the council to use a consent agenda. It’s also important for all voting members to understand the rules associated with a consent agenda.
One of the rules for the consent agenda is that all documentation that’s associated with the items contained in the consent agenda template must be distributed to meeting participants before the meeting so that they have an opportunity to cast informed votes on the group of items. Council members are required to review the information thoroughly to make sure they’re doing their due diligence.
Members of the meeting must be given an opportunity to ask questions about the items in the consent agenda and be given time to get an answer before the vote takes place. All questions and answers to questions on the consent agenda should be shared with voting members.
The board chair usually allows council members to ask simple questions, ask for clarification, and allow short conversations about consent items after someone makes a motion, and before the council approves it. It’s not necessary to remove an item from the consent agenda solely because someone has a simple question that can be answered quickly.
The consent agenda template incorporates several agenda items into one item. At the start of the meeting, the board chair should give participants an opportunity to discuss any of the items listed in the consent agenda. If the group decides that they want to discuss an item on the consent agenda, they have to remove that one item from the consent agenda and address it at another point in the meeting. If there are no questions on that item, they can place it back onto the consent agenda for future meetings.
If any voting members want to vote against an item on the consent agenda, the board chair must remove the item from the consent agenda. Discussion must take place on that item because members aren’t allowed to use a consent agenda to force passage of items on the agenda. At this point, the board chair must read the remaining consent items out loud and may move to adopt the consent agenda as a whole. The council doesn’t have to vote on the consent agenda, they can just approve it as long as there aren’t any objections.
The clerk must include the full text of all resolutions and reports that were included in the consent agenda even though they weren’t individually reviewed at the meeting.
What to Include in the Consent Portion of the Agenda
Councils routinely put certain items into their consent agendas. Such items may include topics that are either routine or reoccurring, procedural decisions, non-controversial issues where there is no disagreement, and items that the council previously discussed and has already come to a consensus, but they still need to vote on them.
Examples of consent agenda items may include the previous meetings’ minutes, financial reports, informational reports, the executive’s report, program reports, department reports, committee appointments, and staff appointments that require council confirmation.
Using Governance Tools to Improve Productivity
A consent agenda is just one tool that streamlines meeting agendas. Agenda and meeting management software are other tools that make the clerk’s work easy. Meeting management software uses online programs where clerks can merely fill in the blank to update agendas, consent agendas, meeting minutes, and other data.
With iCompass, a Diligent brand, municipal governments will eliminate slow manual tasks, which will save time and money by eliminating printers and paper. Board software will help board members to be more transparent by improving public access to meetings, agendas, minutes, and records. iCompass’ Meeting Manager program places information at the tips or council members’ fingertips, where they can access changes to agendas, minutes, records, and meeting records in real time.
Citizens will be delighted with a consistent, reliable user experience that they can use on any of their mobile devices.
Local governments don’t have to sacrifice transparency, security, or accountability to take advantage of meeting management software. In fact, the opposite is true. Meeting management software saves governments time and money.
Consent agenda templates save municipal councils time which they can use to address other issues that need specific attention.