This page provides a basic overview of interlocal cooperation for local governments in Washington State, including examples of interlocal agreements.
Washington's Interlocal Cooperation Act, chapter 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.
Interlocal cooperation can reduce duplication, offer economies of scale, and generally improve governmental efficiency. Local governments engage in a wide array of cooperative efforts with each other, state agencies, and other governmental entities, and interlocal cooperation can take many forms.
All interlocal agreements made pursuant to Ch. 39.34 RCW must either be filed with the county auditor or posted on a public agency's website or other electronically retrievable public source (RCW 39.34.040).
While there is no penalty for failure to file or post agreements, a court of appeals decision, State v. Plaggemeier (1999), held that an agreement may be found invalid if it has not been filed or posted as required by RCW 39.34.040. Plaggemeier was decided under an earlier version of RCW 39.34.040 which required the filing of an interlocal agreement with the county auditor and secretary of state. That statute, however, has been twice amended and now only requires filing the agreement with the county auditor or listing it on the agency’s website. Even with the change in the statutory language, Plaggemeir is important as it indicates that an interlocal agreement could be invalidated by a court if it is not properly filed or listed.
See the MRSC webpages listed below for sample agreements in specific subject areas.
- Animal Control and Animal Shelters
- Court Services
- Emergency Communications Services and Facilities
- Emergency Medical Services
- Fire Services
- Growth Management and Planning
- Law Enforcement Services
- Parks and Recreation
- Public Works - Includes joint planning, utilities, and information systems
- Regional Water Providers and Associations
Some local governments have entered into agreements or adopted policies outlining their intent to pursue opportunities for joint coordination and action on issues of mutual interest with neighboring jurisdictions. See the following sample agreements and 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)
- Richland, Kennewick, and Benton County Fire Districts Nos. 1, 2, and 4 Master Interlocal Partnership and Collaboration Agreement (2011) - 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
- Snohomish County Interjurisdictional Coordination (2015) - General Policy Plan
- National Association of Counties (NACo): A County Manger’s Guide to Shared Services in Local Government (2013) - Produced by the IBM Center for The Business of Government
- Association of Washington Cities (AWC): Forming Successful Partnerships: A Practical Guide for Local Governments (2006)
- Pensylvannia Governor's Center for Local Government Services: Intergovernmental Cooperation Handbook (2018)
- Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: Learning to Think and Act Like a Region (2006)
- Rutgers Center on Law, Inequality, and Metropolitan Equity: A review of the pros and cons of increased interlocal cooperation in local government (2009)
- International City Managers Association (ICMA): Sharing Available Resources Efficiently - Best Practices Handbook (2006) - Produced by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs