How Can Citizens Participate in Local Government?

Local governments are fortunate to have many citizens who volunteer their time and abilities to assist governments in delivering programs and essential government services. Volunteers save governments millions of dollars annually reducing the cost of services that governments provide because volunteers enable government to get more for each tax dollar collected.

Not only does government benefit through volunteers’ efforts, so do the volunteers. Volunteering results in new friendships and contacts, allows people to satisfy talents and abilities, helps develop new skills, and gives volunteers a sense of contributing to their government.

Volunteers are placed in positions to provide regular government services. Volunteers at government serve in administrative and operational positions. Members of advisory and policy-making boards, commissions, committees, and councils are administrative volunteers. Operational volunteers aid in developing programs and providing government service; for instance, acting as tour guides, docents, or clerks. These volunteers supplement the work of paid government employees.

These administrative volunteers are usually appointed by elected government bodies to serve as advisors to the council.

You may be asking yourself several questions like:

What are the benefits of being a volunteer?

A volunteer becomes an important part of government and works side-by-side delivering regular municipal services . Also, volunteers have an opportunity to meet civic and political leaders, as well as other citizens. The volunteer can gain job experience, earn recommendations for future employment, and save government tax dollars.

Are volunteer efforts tax deductible?

A volunteer may deduct certain out-of­ pocket expenses incurred while doing volunteer work, such as transportation and parking expenses. If special uniforms are required and are not provided by government, these are tax deductible also. However, if the volunteer is reimbursed by government for any expenses, deductions can be claimed only for expenses exceeding the amount of reimbursement.

How many hours is a volunteer asked to serve?

Government asks volunteers to commit three hours a week for three months. Government will be flexible in assigning the hours to be worked.

Are there any special qualifications for volunteering?

Volunteers in the administrative area need to be familiar with the subject which the board or commission applied for provides advice.