Getting a new job typically means getting trained on the specifics of that job. But when someone is elected to a local office, such as mayor or city council, he may not come to the role with a broad knowledge of government budgeting, parliamentary procedure, the Freedom of Information Act or forms of government.

To help local elected officials learn the specifics of their jobs on city council, the Municipal Association of South Carolina offers the Municipal Elected Officials Institute. This Institute includes 20 topics related to the operation of municipal government. It gives local leaders the tools they need to understand the state and federal laws that affect cities and towns, effectively budget and meet financial obligations, and run meetings that are transparent and efficient.

Since 1986, more than 70 municipal elected officials have graduated from MEOI annually. The popularity of the Institute, coupled with increase in technology options, has led the Municipal Association to expand how MEOI classes are delivered.

The new option includes online classes covering the topics that are streamed live three times annually to the ten Councils of Governments offices around the state. The Institute also includes two day-long in-person sessions offered every February.

This month, the Association rolled out its fourth of five online courses to give local officials increased access to these MEOI learning opportunities. The newest session focuses on municipal governance and policy giving officials a broad understanding of the source of municipal authority based on the Home Rule Act and a variety of case law.

"Local officials now have more options for training than ever before," said Miriam Hair, executive director of the Municipal Association. "This is one of the most extensive training programs for elected city officials anywhere in the country."

Participants in the new course also learn about governance issues such as the differences between an ordinance and a resolution, the differences between policy and administration, and compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

The online class sessions use a combination of videos, quizzes and reading material. Cayce councilmember Tim James graduated from MEOI in July having taken two of the online classes. He said, "The sessions were very well put together - videos make the presentations very understandable."

Other online offerings in addition to the new governance session include "Municipal Economic Development," "Forms of Municipal Government" and "Basic Budgeting and Municipal Finance." The fifth and final online class about the Freedom of Information Act will be released later this year.

Another option local officials can access immediately after they are elected is the online class called "The Five Basics of Effective Governing." This non-credit course gives newly elected officials an overview of basic information about municipal governance that will be helpful during their first few months in office.