The Handbook for Minnesota Cities is your comprehensive resource for laws affecting Minnesota city governments.

Table of Contents

Learn about the different kinds of local government, including cities, towns, counties, and special districts such as lake improvement, special service, soil and water conservation, watershed, school, regional development commissions, and the Metropolitan Council. Understand the relationship of local governments to the state and federal governments.

Chapter 2: Change of Boundaries, Status, and Name

Learn the procedures for incorporating, consolidating, and dissolving cities and the related procedures of annexation and concurrently detaching from one city and annexing into another. Understand the role of the state’s Municipal Boundary Adjustment Unit in these processes.

Chapter 3: The Statutory City

Minnesota law provides for two basic types of cities: statutory cities operating under the statutory city code, and home rule charter cities operating under a local charter. Learn about the organization and general powers of statutory cities, the most common type of city in the state.

Chapter 4: The Home Rule Charter City

Understand the authority to form a home rule charter city, charter city powers and the ways it may be organized. Contrast charter cities to those operating under the statutory city code. These broad categories are the two basic types of city organization available in Minnesota.

Chapter 5: Election Procedures

Outlines election procedures, notices, ballot requirements, qualifications and training of election judges, and voting and counting procedures. Links to sample forms and more from the Secretary of State. Also learn about voter residency and eligibility, absentee voting and voter registration; eligibility for city office candidacy, how candidates file and withdraw, campaign finance reporting and fair campaign practices.

Chapter 6: Elected Officials and Council Structure and Role

Understand the council’s role in city governance, including eligibility for office, council powers versus individual councilmember roles, and delegation of council power. Learn about the special roles of the mayor and clerk and use of both independent and advisory boards and commissions.

Chapter 7: Meetings, Motions, Resolutions, and Ordinances

Review requirements city councils must follow when conducting meetings and public hearings, such as the Open Meeting Law and its exceptions, taking and publishing minutes, and parliamentary procedure. Learn when to use a motion, resolution, or an ordinance to do city business and the procedures required for each.

Chapter 8: City Administrative Staff

Learn about the duties of various city officials, the requirements for qualifying for office, and the problem of incompatible offices.

Chapter 9: Working Conditions for Public Employees

Learn about the protections required for worker safety by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), as well as employee benefits in case of work-related injuries that must be provided under state workers’ compensation law. Limits and protections for employee political activity are also included.

Chapter 10: City Licensing

Understand the basic concepts in licensing such as city authority, constitutional issues, pre-emption and fees. Learn about licensed activities such as liquor, animals, peddlers, businesses, telecommunications and more.

Chapter 11: City Regulatory Functions

Authority to regulate various activities in the city comes from state law. Learn about the activities most commonly regulated and licensed by cities such as lawful gambling, speed limits, traffic violations, parking regulations, utilities, curfew, loitering, open burning, noise, obscenity, and others.

Chapter 12: Public Safety and Emergency Management

Find out how cities may protect the public safety through regulations, such as adopting and enforcing the State Building Code, and providing services like police, fire protection or ambulance. Learn about preparing for and carrying out emergency functions to prevent, minimize and repair injury and damage from disasters such as flooding or tornadoes.

Chapter 13: Comprehensive Planning, Land Use, and City-Owned Land

Learn about land use ordinances to establish zoning and subdivision regulations, and city land acquisition through dedication, negotiation and eminent domain. Regulations and acquisition are the two basic methods of city land use control.

Chapter 14: Community Development and Redevelopment

Learn about the requirements for a city to establish criteria for awarding business subsidies and various development agencies cities may create. Find an overview of state and federally sponsored programs for encouraging development and redevelopment. Most economic development tools can be applied to any size city. These tools are interrelated, and a city may use several for one project.

Chapter 15: Environmental Regulations

Find out about the most significant environmental regulations, many required by state law and rules, and the opportunities you have to help protect and improve your city’s natural resources by protecting state waters, water quality, observing pipeline safety, regulating pesticides, and more. Connect this information with your efforts on community development when considering implementation.

Chapter 16: Intergovernmental Cooperation

Understand city powers and processes to promote cooperation between governments such as contracting, the joint powers act, land use planning and regional development, city extra-territorial powers and banding with others in local government associations. Collaboration accomplishes more for cities with complex responsibilities and shrinking resources.

Chapter 17: Liability 

Understand city exposure to lawsuits and the state statutes and judicial decisions that limit liability. Addresses tort liability of cities, officers, and employees; statutory immunities; exceptions and limits to liability; and special causes of action, such as civil rights and antitrust.

Chapter 18: Insurance and Loss Control

Insurance helps pay lawful claims and can provide a defense when meritless claims are made. Learn about basic and specialty insurance coverage, fidelity and faithful performance bonds, sources of insurance, and more. Understand how loss control measures—the ongoing process of analyzing and responding to hazards—can reduce the likelihood that injuries will occur and claims will be made.

Chapter 19: Sources of Revenue

Learn about major sources of revenue for cities you can consider in developing and implementing a city budget. Examples include state aid programs, charging for city services, license and permit fees, investment income, city enterprise funds, taxes, street and highway funding, and borrowing options.

Chapter 20: Municipal Budgeting

Learn the characteristics of city budgets as a work plan and communication tool. Understand the budget cycle and structures, sources of city revenue, typical expenditure categories, and planning for multiple-year expenditures, like infrastructure, with a separate capital budget. Become aware of how GASB and Truth in Taxation impact budgeting.

Chapter 21: Property Tax Levy

Learn about the city’s authority to tax and the role of the property tax process. Understand the property tax process, including assessment, valuation, and classification of property. Read about levy limits, tax notification procedures (Truth in Taxation), and tax differential treatment for special categories of land such as rural preserve lands, special service districts, and taxing annexed or consolidated lands.

Chapter 22: Expenditures, Purchasing, and Contracts

Learn about state laws regulating disbursement of public funds such as competitive bidding requirements, best value and emergency contracting, construction contracts, contracting with other governmental entities and purchasing consultant services. Get guidance on the city official prohibition against having a personal financial interest in city contracts.

Chapter 23: Debt and Borrowing

Find information on the legal aspects of debt and borrowing such as laws governing bonds, debt service funds, and the impact of federal law. Read also practical suggestions about the administration of capital financing programs and descriptions of how the process actually works.

Chapter 24: Financing Public Improvements

Read about commonly used and authorized financing tools for cities to fund local improvements and economic development. Includes discussion on issuing debt, reserve funds, improvement and special service districts, fees and connection charges, and state and federal road and bridge funding sources, among others.

Chapter 25: Financial Reports, Accounting, and Auditing

Find basic information routine financial tasks and duties cities must perform such as use of funds in accounting, internal control procedures, financial reporting requirements, federal and state auditing requirements and how to use them effectively, depositories and investment of city funds, and city bankruptcy.

Chapter 26: Records Management

Defines public records and outlines records management issues, including creation, retention, and destruction of records, public inspection of records, and the right to privacy. Understand management concepts for electronic records such as email, text messages, and websites. Learn about metadata, security, backups, and disaster recovery.