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Last Updated: 2014-7-14

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Richmond City Council Overview

The foundation of Richmond's self- governance is established via our national and state constitutions and our local government "constitution" is established in the powers granted it by the Virginia General Assembly, as enumerated in the Richmond City Charter. The Richmond City Charter establishes the governmental framework of Richmond’s Government.

   Richmond’s chosen form of local government is a Council-Mayor form of government, which establishes Richmond City Council as the governing body of city government and a Mayor is elected to oversee a Chief Administrative Officer in the delivery of day-to-day government operations.

   In Richmond's Council-Mayor form of government, the city is divided into nine citizen geo-demographic voter districts. These districts are used to elect members of the Richmond City Council, Richmond City Public Schools Board of Trustees and a Mayor At-Large. These Richmond Voting Districts include the: Richmond West End 1st Voter District, Richmond North Central 2nd Voter District, Richmond Northside 3rd Voter District, Richmond Southwest 4th Voter District, Richmond Central 5th Voter District, Richmond Gateway 6th Voter District, Richmond East End 7th Voter District, Richmond Southside 8th Voter District, and Richmond South Central 9th Voter District.

   Nine persons are thusly elected among nine individual Richmond Voting Districts to represent residents as members of Richmond City Council, which is responsible for creating and amending local laws, providing policy and government oversight, appointing members to boards and commissions, and approving the annual Richmond Government Budget. In 2008 the term of a Councilmember increased from two to four years.

   Richmond City Council elects from among its members one person to serve as Council President and one to serve as Vice President. These positions are elected to serve for two-year terms. The Council President is responsible for providing overall Richmond City Council direction; leading Council meetings; serving as the senior representative of Council on behalf of Council action; and, working with the Administration.

   In delivery of its official duties, Richmond City Council holds, an average, about a dozen official public meetings a month to discuss, deliberate, and act on laws and policy on behalf of Richmond residents. These meetings include: Council Formal Meetings, Council Informal Meetings, Council Standing Committee Meetings; and, Council Budget Meetings, Special Meeting, Public Hearings and Council Special Events that are held on an as-needed basis.

Richmond City Council Standing Committees

A Richmond City Council Standing Committee structure was established in 2004 in order to increase efficiency. This process mirrors the state and federal process in which proposed legislation is sent to a committee for in-depth discussion and review.

   Richmond City Council Standing Committees represent six general government areas and include Finance and Economic Development; Health, Human Services and Education; Land Use, Housing and Transportation; Governmental Operations; Organizational Development; and, Public Safety. The Council President reviews all proposed legislation and assigns it to a Council Standing Committee according to subject matter.

   Richmond City Council Standing Committees are comprised of three Council members and an alternate who hold public Committee meetings once a month. After the Standing Committee completes its review, it sends its recommendation to a Council meeting. Recommendations could include approval; rejection; continuance; referral; striking (removal of the legislation), or no recommendation.

History of Richmond's Council-Mayor form of government

In 2004, Richmond changed its local government to a Council-Mayor form of government. The new government began work in 2005. Establishing Richmond City Council as the Governing Body of Richmond, the change (from a Council-Manager to a Council-Mayor form) separated the management of Richmond government into two separate entities. Now, the legislative governing function of government is separate from the day-to-day management of public government services and Richmond has a newly formed Legislative Governing Body (Richmond City Council) and Executive management of government services (Chief Administrative Officer/At-Large Mayor).

   While the change to a new government system did not alter service delivery, it resulted in the creation of a totally new separate legislative branch of government. In the old Council-Manager form of government, which had been in place for about 50 years, Councilmembers elected a Mayor from among its members and Richmond operated as a single entity. Under the new Council-Mayor form, Richmond City Council provides the legislative role as the governing body of Richmond and a Mayor elected at-large oversees the day-to-day government operations through a Chief Administrative Officer.

   A Mayor is elected "at-large" by Richmond voters and must win a majority of votes in five of the nine Richmond Voter Districts. The duties of the Mayor include the ceremonial support; proposing a draft Richmond City Government Fiscal Plan Budget for Richmond City Council to use in establishing an annual Richmond Government Budget; recommending an appointment for a Richmond Chief Administrative Officer for the consent of Council); and, supervising the Richmond Chief Administrative Officer in the delivery day-to-day administration/oversight of government service services. The separate at-large Mayor serves a four-year term and can be re-elected one subsequent consecutive term.

Richmond City Council Mission and Vision

Richmond City Council has consolidated its duties into the following official Mission and Vision.


The mission of Richmond City Council is to represent citizens in creating and amending local laws, providing government policy and oversight, and approving the city budget.


Richmond City Council is committed to creating a vibrant community that is great place to live, work, learn, play, visit, and raise a family.

Richmond City Council Offices

Richmond City Council appoints and provides oversight of six offices in the delivery of its duties. These Council offices include: the Richmond City Council Office of the Council Chief of Staff, Richmond City Council Office of the City (Council) Clerk, Richmond City Council Office of the City Auditor, Richmond Office of the City Attorney, Richmond City Council Office of the City Assessor of Real Estate, and Richmond City Council Office of the Inspector General.

Richmond City Council Ordinances and Resolutions

Richmond City Council uses ordinances and resolutions in order to affect local government operations and laws. The definitions of these legislative instruments are as follows:

Richmond City Council Ordinance

An ordinance has the effect of local law in the City of Richmond. The Richmond City Charter requires that certain actions of the Council be only by ordinance.Richmond City Council Ordinances are collected (codified) in the Richmond Code of Laws. Richmond City Charter §4.13. Adoption of an ordinance requires the affirmative votes of at least five members of the Council. Richmond City Charter §4.07. The Council may not vote on an ordinance until at least seven days after its introduction. Richmond City Charter §4.10. Unlike some other localities, an ordinance is not signed by the presiding officer. Instead, after adoption, a true copy of each ordinance is attested by the Clerk and maintained in the Office of the City Clerk. See Richmond City Charter §4.13. Ordinances are reviewed as to form and legality by the City Attorney prior to introduction.

Richmond City Council Resolution

A resolution is an action by Richmond City Council that generally does not have the effect of law. A resolution generally expresses Council's will, intent or policy on a particular matter. Also, Richmond City Council generally appoints individuals to serve on authorities, boards and commissions and creates some ad hoc boards, commissions and committees by the adoption of a resolution. Richmond City Council Rules of Procedure V(C). Adoption of an ordinance requires the affirmative votes of at least five members of Council. Richmond City Charter §4.07. Unlike an ordinance, Council may adopt a resolution on an expedited basis at the same time it is introduced. Richmond City Council Rules of Procedure V(B). Unlike some other localities, a resolution is not signed by the presiding officer. Instead, as with ordinances, a true copy of each adopted resolution is attested by the City (Council) Clerk and maintained in the Richmond City Council Office of the City Clerk. Resolutions are reviewed as to form and legality by the Richmond City Attorney prior to introduction.

Background - Richmond Government Budget

As Richmond Residents, we pool our resources in order to own and operate our local government and decide what public services we want to invest in; the priority (investment levels) for these services; and, how we pay for them. Examples of our services include the management, oversight and delivery of such things as clean/safe water; streets/parks; laws; firefighting/rescue; trash/sewage removal; police/courts; public transportation; and, our children’s education. Together, we own, operate, use and benefit from these services on a daily basis.

   Funding for our services and enforcement of laws comes from state, local and federal sources, including fees and taxes. In order to set the investments levels we want for these services, Richmond City Council establishes an official annual Richmond Government Budget (In practice this is a biennial (2-yr.) fiscal plan is established that is further amended in its second year.) in May of each year for the upcoming Fiscal Year and establishes a Richmond Real Estate Tax Rate to help pay for some of it (estimated 15 percent).

   The Richmond Government Budget is based on a Fiscal Year that runs July 1 to June 30 annually and the City operates on a two-year fiscal plan (Budget) that includes the Richmond General Fund, Richmond Capital Improvement Plan, Richmond Special Funds, Richmond Enterprise Funds, Richmond Internal Service Funds, the City Government contribution to Richmond Public Schools; and, additional state funds, federal funds, and other funds provided to Richmond Public Schools.

   The Richmond Government Budget is typically amended every year. Thus, every year a proposed (draft) Richmond Government Budget (Fiscal Plan) is submitted to Richmond City Council by the Mayor, who is responsible for administering local government services. Richmond City Council then reviews, analyzes, amends and establishes a new official Richmond Government Budget based on the priorities of residents.

   Richmond City Council budget deliberations begin each August and intensify the following year and include more than two dozen public meetings, hearings and work sessions from August through May.

   At the conclusion of the deliberations, Richmond City Council votes to officially establish an official Richmond Government Budget for an upcoming Fiscal Year (FY), which runs from July 1 to June 30 annually. The Official Richmond Government Budget takes the form of laws, which are approved by Council as Ordinances which it votes on in May of each year. The Budget is typically amended every year and can also be amended throughout the year.

Richmond Real Estate Taxes

We, as residents, have determined that a fair way to help pay for some of our local government services is for Richmond real estate owners to annually contribute funds based on a percentage of the value of the real estate they own in the city. Therefore, each year the fair market value of real estate in the city is assessed and an annual Richmond Real Estate Tax Rate is set. The rate is the percentage, based on $100 of value, that each real estate owner will contribute to help pay for government services in the city. Richmond real estate owners contribute their share annually, based on the value of their real estate and the tax rate, which is set by June 15 annually. For example, if a person owns $100,000 in real estate and the tax rate is $1.20 per $100 of assessed property value; their share is $1,200 for that year.

   Beginning calendar year 2011, our Richmond City Council divided Real Estate Tax collections into two collections a year instead of all at once and market valuation data was lagged one year. Payments are now due as follows: Half by January 14 and half by June 14.

Richmond City Council Formal Awards

Of the many duties performed by Richmond City Council on behalf of the community, one of the most rewarding is the recognition and honoring of individuals, businesses and organizations who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others and help to make Richmond an even better place to live, work, learn, play, visit, and raise a family.

Boards and Commissions

Critical to the foundation of our citizen-run government, each year Richmond City Council regularly establishes and/or appoints members to serve on local and regional government and non-government boards, commissions, committees and task forces, which range from advisory to policy to governing. Richmond City Council makes appointments throughout the year as vacancies occur and new entities are created. There are an average of about 50 entities Richmond City Council appoints members. Most appointed positions are volunteer/non-paid.

   Local and regional government and non-government boards, commissions, committees and task forces provide important additional intellectual assistance on behalf of subjects and undertakings that help shape the quality of our lives, neighborhoods and community. Membership and service on these entities offers and provides individuals with additional opportunities to participate with and learn more about local and regional government and other non-government entities. Service on an entity enables individuals to use their education, experience, skills and abilities on behalf of their community and all interested individuals are invited and encouraged to apply to serve.

   Each entity has individual membership terms that range from a few months for project-oriented ones to a few years for more long-term ones. Subject to an individual entity’s governing, incumbents may also be considered for reappointment at the conclusion of their terms and generally may serve up to two successive full terms unless otherwise prohibited. (Note: It is also possible for a person to be appointed to serve to fill a remainder of a partial unexpired term then be appointed to serve subsequent successive terms. Also, unless otherwise specified, service on an entity also may be longer if a new appointment has not been made and an incumbent is willing to continue service until that time.

   The amount of time commitments vary from entity to entity and could range from a few to 20 or more hours a month. Meeting times, dates, locations and frequency are scheduled as required.

   Oversight of appointments to Boards, Commissions and Task Forces is provided by one of the six Richmond City Council Standing Committees that an entity is assigned to, which is assisted by a Richmond City Council Boards and Commissions Administrator.

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