Parks & Schools Intergovernmental Agreements: A School District Perspective 

When funding sources are in limbo, available land is limited, and the overall quality of facilities and resources can be dramatically improved, it’s no wonder why school districts and park districts consider joining forces. Whether to share costs, and/or usage of facilities, forms of intergovernmental agreements (IGA), joint use agreements or shared use agreements can help both parties better serve their communities.

A School District Perspective: Why establish an IGA?
Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. (EEA) recently sat down with longtime client, Ted Birren, director of operations at Township High School District 214, to learn about the district’s experience establishing shared use and joint use agreements through IGAs.

District 214 currently has multiple formal agreements with Illinois park districts as well as a private soccer club.  The facilities outlined in these legally-binding documents include swimming pools, turf fields, athletic stadiums, locker rooms, theaters, classrooms, weight rooms, and general facility access.

Aside from sharing costs of facilities, how do such agreements benefit your district?
“In many cases the benefits include some sort of reciprocal use of facilities of the other party, benefits to district 214 students, benefits to the district community, and the general expanded use of the facilities to benefit the different constituencies of the District through the IGA or lease.”

How do you start the agreement process?
After building a relationship, Birren recommends seeking legal counsel.  “Reliance on attorneys for review is critical.  An attorney will have agreements of other clients that they can share with you to suit the needs of your district or agency.” He continued that after establishing an initial agreement, legal reviews of subsequent agreements often become considerably quicker.

What do these agreements generally look like?
In Birren’s experience, the documents typically include a statement of, “Introduction and legal authority of the school district, general purpose of the agreement describing what is proposed to be accomplished, term of the agreement, fees associated with use, maintenance and custodial responsibilities and costs, insurance requirements, severability, and signatures of the respective parties.

What three things would you tell governmental partners who are new to the process?
“Always keep your attorney in the loop and provided with a copy of your agreement.  Even in the best relationships, the agreement may need to be referenced for guidance down the road.” 

Birren also emphasized the importance of evaluating the longevity of the terms. “Be sure that all of the ideas about the relationship are put down on paper today so that the people in our positions of both parties several years from now will have no question as to intent or rules/regulations surrounding the agreement. “

If something is missing from an original agreement, “Agreements can always be amended without starting over,” Birren explained. Any additions to pre-existing agreements, “should be captured in writing as an addendum or amendment to the agreement.”