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Just what powers do Langley council members and school trustees have?

Presented is a basic overview of the responsibilities and powers of local elected officials

There’s often a lot of misconceptions about what local elected officials can and cannot do.

Provincial law sets out their roles and responsibilities and the limits on their powers.

For example, municipal councils can’t override provincial and federal laws. One instance, the city council can’t remove land from the agricultural land reserve, which is provincial jurisdiction.

It’s the Community Charter that specifically outlines the roles and responsibilities of municipal councils and their members and the following offers a glimpse at said duties.

Mayor responsibilities

The mayor is the head and chief executive officer of the municipality.

The mayor has all the responsibilities of a councillor, plus a number of additional responsibilities.

Under the Community Charter the mayor must:

• Provide leadership to council, including by recommending bylaws, resolutions and other measures that may assist in the peace, order, and good governance of the municipality;

• Reflect the will of council and carry out other duties on behalf of council, such as attending ceremonies and meetings of other bodies;

• Communicate information to council, for example from the chief administrative officer or from meetings with other bodies;

• Chair council meetings, including overseeing their conduct, maintaining order, and knowing the rules of governing meetings;

• Establish standing committees, and appoint people to those committees;

• Provide, on behalf of council, general direction to municipal officers about implementation of municipal policies, programs, and other council directions;

• Suspend municipal officers and employees if the mayor believes this is necessary, subject to confirmation by council under section 151 of the Community Charter.

Councillor responsibilities

The Community Charter specifically sets out that a municipal councillor must:

• Consider the well-being and interests of the municipality and its community;

• Contribute to the development and evaluation of municipal policies and programs respecting its services and other activities;

• Participate in council and committee meetings and contribute to decision making;

• Carry out other duties as assigned by the council, such as heading committees or being the liaison to a particular neighbourhood in the municipality;

• Follow the rules in legislation, bylaws, and council policies that establish any additional duties and set how council members exercise their authority.

Municipal councils are empowered to address the existing and future needs of their community by making collective decisions that are recorded in bylaws or resolutions.

Each member of council, including the mayor, is entitled to one vote on matters that come before them for discussion and decision. Such matters are wide-ranging – for example, regulatory bylaws such as animal control, services such as fire and police, land use regulation such as zoning, fees and property tax bylaws, and key plans such as the official community plan and five-year financial plan (budget).

Ultimately, municipal councils are responsible for the delivery of local services to their community and the actions taken by the municipality.

As municipalities are legislatively recognized by the B.C. government as an order of government within their jurisdiction, these responsibilities are undertaken largely independently with limited oversight by other levels of government.

Certain decisions made by council are not effective until they are approved or authorized by the provincial government, such as long-term borrowing bylaws or municipal boundary changes.

Trustee responsibilities

School trustees are the members of their school district’s board of education.

The B.C. School Trustees Association has created a guide on the roles and responsibilities of school boards and trustees.

They are locally elected representatives of the public and are the community’s advocates for public education.

They are required to carry out their responsibilities in a manner that assists the board in fulfilling its duties under the School Act.

A trustee’s role is to maintain a focus on student achievement and well-being, and to participate in decision making that benefits the entire district while representing the interests of the entire electorate.

The board is responsible for setting the overall strategic direction for the school district.

Trustees work together to establish the board’s strategic plan, which sets the goals of the district and its budget priorities.

The board also has the responsibility of oversight for the school district, including ensuring that the superintendent carries out the board’s strategic plan.

The superintendent acts as the CEO and leads the day-to-day work in this area, including delegation to various people and groups within the organization.

For example, the board does not take on the responsibility for the evaluation of individual teachers or administrators.

Instead, it ensures the superintendent has put in place the necessary procedures and actions to ensure teachers and administrators within the district are evaluated on a regular basis, according to established board policy.

School districts are significant community assets. Boards have important responsibilities for oversight of school district financial decisions.

One of the most important aspects of governance for trustees is to connect district goals, strategic planning and finances, through the establishment of the district’s annual budget.

The board oversees development of a strategic plan and the allocation of resources to support that plan.

– Sources:

Government of British Columbia

B.C. School Trustees Association