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Intergovernmental Cooperation


Washington's Interlocal Cooperation Act, Ch. 39.34 RCW, authorizes public agencies to contract with other public agencies via interlocal agreements that enable cooperation among the agencies to perform governmental activities and deliver public services. The Act also allows the creation of nonprofit corporations to carry out these ends.

The Joint Municipal Utility Services Act, Ch. 39.106 RCW, provides authority for the formation of a joint utility authority, a type of intergovernmental municipal corporation. Interjurisdictional cooperation reduces duplication, offers economies of scale, and generally enhances governmental efficiency.

Local governments engage in a wide array of cooperative efforts with each other, state agencies, and other governmental entities. Intergovernmental cooperation takes many forms, including mutual aid agreements for police and fire services, intergovernmental service contracting, joint facilities agreements, corporations, coordinated growth management planning, joint purchasing, and regional provision of emergency services.

Alternative to Filing Interlocal Agreements with County Auditor

RCW 39.34.040 requires that an agreement made pursuant to Ch. 39.34 RCW be filed with the county auditor. The law was amended in 2006 to provide an alternative to filing with the auditor.

Laws of 2006, ch. 32 (HB 2676) amends RCW 39.34.040 by providing an alternative to filing an interlocal agreement with the county auditor, a public agency may list the agreement on its web site or other electronically retrievable public source.

While there is no penalty for not filing or posting agreements pursuant to RCW 39.34.040, the summary of the decision in State v. Plaggemeier, 93 Wn. App. 472 (1999) indicates that an agreement was invalid as it had not been filed with the auditor and secretary of state. A review of the decision itself, though, shows that the only requirement is to file the agreement with the county auditor. The Plaggemeir decision is important, though, as it invalidates an agreement that was not properly filed.

Joint Municipal Utility Services Authority

Laws of 2011, ch. 258, Ch. 39.106 RCW, created a new type of intergovernmental municipal corporation to improve the ability of local government utilities to plan, finance, construct, acquire, maintain, operate, and provide facilities and utility services to the public, and to reduce costs and improve the benefits, efficiency, and quality of utility services. Agreements forming an authority must be filed with the Washington state secretary of state which will provide a certificate of filing. An authority shall be deemed to have been formed as of the date of that filing.

Areas of Interlocal Cooperation and Sample Agreements

See the MRSC webpages listed below for sample agreements in specific subject areas.

Cooperation Policies

  • Bainbridge Island Resolution No. 2004-06 - Joint resolution of the city of Bainbridge Island, Bainbridge Island School District No. 303, Bainbridge Island Fire District No. 2, and Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District to promote and strengthen coordination in public funding and financing requests between Bainbridge Island taxing districts
  • Kent School District Policy 4320 - Cooperative programs with other districts and public agencies (similar policies are adopted by other school districts)
  • Marysville Resolution No. 2082, passed 09/2002 - Working with city of Arlington for regional solutions
  • Port Townsend and Jefferson County Joint Resolution No. 99-076, 96-99, 09/1999 - Declaring an intent to facilitate and examine joint ventures of common service programs
  • Richland, Kennewick, and Benton County Fire Districts Nos. 1, 2, and 4 Master Interlocal Partnership and Collaboration Agreement - Agreement memorializes the desire to cooperatively form a partnership for the identification, evaluation, and implementation of collaborative efforts to allow the sharing of resources, including, but not limited to, personnel, resources, and equipment, 03/2011
  • Snohomish County Interjurisdictional Cooperation, General Policy Plan (2025 Comprehensive Plan)

Additional References

State Publications and Websites

  • Georgia Service Delivery Strategy - GA Service Delivery Strategy Act encourages cooperation and coordinated service delivery among local governments
  • New York
    • Intermunicipal Agreements, Local Government Efficiency (LGE) Program, Local Government Services Program, New York Department of State - Provides samples of Intermunicipal Agreements (IMAs) from past grant applications related to projects that will achieve savings and improve municipal efficiency through shared services, cooperative agreements, and governmental reorganization
    • Local Government Management Guide Intermunicipal Cooperation, State of New York Comptroller, 11/2003
  • Pennsylvania, Intergovernmental Cooperation Handbook, Governor's Center for Local Government Services, Department of Community and Economic Development, 6th Edition, 02/2006
  • Wisconsin, Intergovernmental Cooperation, University of Wisconsin Extension, Local Government Center - Includes case studies and resources on intergovernmental cooperation from Wisconsin

Last Modified: February 27, 2018