What is a Board of Commissioners? (Overview, Roles, and Responsibilities)

  • By: Adam Wire
  • October 13, 2022
Board of Commissioners
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thinking about running for county commissioner in an upcoming election? In this role, you serve with an elected board of commissioners to oversee county activities and ensure citizen concerns are met.

The following article briefly describes the functions of a board of commissioners, from preparing for a board meeting to approving county budgets. You’ll also learn how board portal technology helps county commissioners be more efficient and effective. 

What is a Board of Commissioners?

Used in several U.S. states, the board of commissioners is an administrative board that runs a county commission form of local government. Depending on the particular local government, the board may consist of three, five, or as many as seven elected members. It carries out executive and legislative functions pertaining to various local government agencies. For example, in the state of Maryland, 12 of the state’s 23 counties have a board of commissioners as the functioning executive body.

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Boards of Supervisors Responsibilities

Common board of commissioners responsibilities are outlined below.

1. Enact County Ordinances

Proposed ordinances receive a reading before the board of commissioners. The board must adopt the proposed ordinance by a majority vote before it becomes law. Examples of local ordinances enacted by the board of commissioners include local speed limits, public health issues, zoning restrictions, and snow removal.

The board may enforce its ordinances with financial penalties for violations rather than in court. Ordinances only apply within the board’s local jurisdiction, not an entire state.

2. Approve County Budgets

State and federal money make up a big part of county revenues. Therefore, part of the board’s responsibility is to approve the county’s budget to appropriate funds for county activities, such as:

  • Building and maintaining roads
  • Passing and enforcing civil and criminal laws, not in conflict with state laws
  • Earmarking special funds for parks, human services, libraries, county fairs, and emergency services
  • Setting aside funds for sewer, water, and trash services
  • Creating funds for capital projects.

The board may include a county finance committee to approve financial decisions.

3. Oversee County Spending

The board of commissioners does not merely set county policies. As the executive branch of local government, the board must also oversee county spending. Some counties may have a board member with a particular skill set in budget management who fulfills this duty. Other boards hire a county administrator or similar staff person to help with the executive duties, such as oversight.

4. Hire County Employees

Part of the board’s executive powers lies in its authority to hire county employees to carry out local government work. They are responsible for hiring, overseeing, and firing, if needed.

Achieve Complete Board Governance With OnBoard

A board of commissioners ensures their county’s citizens’ needs are met. Important work calls for streamlined systems to boost effectiveness. OnBoard offers board management software for government bodies to redefine public engagement, meeting outcomes, and modern digital governance. The meeting platform helps leaders make better decisions, prioritize what’s important, and garner public trust. 

Powerful OnBoard features include:

  • Secure and public storage for historic records
  • Drag-and-drop meeting agenda builder
  • Task management
  • Voting and approvals
  • Secure messenger for 1-to-1 discussions

For a small taste of what OnBoard’s full-service platform can do for your board of commissioners, download our free board meeting agenda template.

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About The Author

Adam Wire
Adam Wire
Adam Wire is a Content Marketing Manager at OnBoard who joined the company in 2021. A Ball State University graduate, Adam worked in various content marketing roles at Angi, USA Football, and Adult & Child Health following a 12-year career in newspapers. His favorite part of the job is problem-solving and helping teammates achieve their goals. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. He’s an avid sports fan and foodie who also enjoys lawn and yard work and running.