In this article, you will learn:
What municipal clerks should include when taking meeting minutes
Basic framework for an organized and productive local government council meeting
How digital tools can streamline the minute-taking process
As often as meetings take place, you might think that there would be a solid format and template for taking board meeting minutes. Board meetings are as different as the organizations that require someone to take minutes. The need for customization is the reason that minute-takers have some flexibility in how they record and organize meeting minutes.
Meeting minutes provide a legal and official record of board and council meetings. In most cases, minutes will closely follow the agenda for the meeting. Meeting minutes provide a legal record of meetings and can be called into court proceedings as legal evidence, so it’s vitally important that minutes are true and accurate.
Doing a quick internet search will allow you to pull up various templates for taking meeting minutes. It’s not difficult to take meeting minutes manually, although it’s time-consuming. Meeting discussions can go fast, so it’s also possible for clerks to miss important points while writing down notes.
Digital software solutions, such as Meeting Manager by iCompass, a Diligent brand, fill in much of the information before the meeting starts and streamline the rest of the process so clerks can focus on the proceedings to determine what to add to the minutes.
Information to Include in Meeting Minutes
Whether clerks write minutes manually or use digital software programs for taking minutes, they should include the following items at a minimum:
- Date and time of the meeting
- Location of the meeting
- Type of meeting
- Names of any members present, including elected officials and city staff
- Names of late arrivals
- A description of each action item, motion, proposal or resolution
- The identity of anyone making and seconding a motion, along with the name of each person voting for or against each proposal
- Points of order or appeals
- Notes about complying with specific legal procedures
- Any recesses
- Name of councilmembers who leave the meeting early, and the time they leave
Clerks can input much of this information into a basic template if they’re writing minutes manually. The process is even easier when using iCompass Meeting Manager software.
Basic Template for Local Government Council Meeting
There are a couple of places you can look to find the order of the minutes that your council has been using, and it may be best to follow what’s been done in the past. Reviewing past meeting minutes is the best way to learn more about how your local government formats minutes. Be aware that your local government may have a policy on how they want minutes to be recorded and what needs to be included. Since minutes directly follow the order of the agenda, the agenda will also give you an indication of how to format and order council meeting minutes.
The Georgia Municipal Association recommends the following order for meeting minutes:
- Call to Order
- Pledge of Allegiance
- Awards and Presentations
- Approval of Minutes
- Public Hearings
- Ordinances and Resolutions
- Bids, Contracts, Expenditures and Agreements
- Local Funding and Requests
- Boards and Commissions
- Public Comments
These are also titles that you can easily fill in before the meeting starts. There’s a much easier way. Let’s look at how much faster and more efficient it is to use a digital minute-taking tool.
Using Digital Software Solutions for Taking Minutes
The agenda and the minutes are inherently related, so it makes sense that the digital template for minutes corresponds to that of the agenda. iCompass has created a software program that helps clerks build board meeting materials for elected officials in minutes. The agenda template makes it easy to create a template for meeting minutes.
The agenda software program uses an editor that was built specifically for local governments. The program automatically formats the template, saving clerks much frustration in designing the layout. The software pulls information from previous meetings to prepopulate the attendees, date, location, time and other pertinent information.
The software uses drag-and-drop technology, which makes it easy for clerks to add, delete, modify and reorder the agenda items. The program also makes it easy for clerks to add clickable attachments to items on the agenda.
Once the agenda is complete, it takes only a single click to publish it to elected officials, key stakeholders and the public. Public officials can then download the agenda and view it on their laptop or tablet. The public can view the agenda on the Transparency Portal, which is a seamless extension to your local government website.
After publishing the agenda, clerks can begin to prepare the minutes for the meeting. The basic information from the agenda prepopulates into the minutes program. All clerks need to do is review it for accuracy.
The sections for the minutes will automatically follow the order of the agenda. Clerks have the ability to change the titles of the sections if they so choose. During the meeting, all clerks have to do is add notes to each section of the minutes template.
Clerks can also assign follow-up tasks using the minutes program. Another time-saving feature is that the program allows clerks to set up notification emails for follow-ups right from the platform.
By the end of the meeting, the minutes are nearly complete. Clerks may want to double-check the minutes for accuracy and typographical errors before publishing them. After polishing the minutes, clerks can publish minutes to elected officials, key stakeholders and the public using a single click, just as they did for the agenda.
With iCompass, a Diligent brand, taking minutes really couldn’t be faster, easier or more efficient.
The minutes software allows municipal boards to store their agenda and minutes records completely and securely online. Files are searchable so that staff can access them in seconds. Clerks or other staff can also set the retention schedules before electronically filing documents, so there’s no worry about documents being destroyed before the proper time.
The public can also use a simple search box on the Transparency Portal to access digital and printable versions of council meeting agendas and minutes and retrieve them in seconds.
Taking meeting minutes isn’t difficult and it’s somewhat repetitious. Those are good reasons to switch to digital tools for minute-taking. By letting the software prefill basic information and outline the basic order of the agenda, it frees clerks up to focus more diligently on meetings and on making sure that meeting minutes are accurate. Well-documented meeting minutes serve everyone well.