There's a lot of talk these days (we'd venture to say it's been a subject of discussion since government was invented) about making government more efficient.
Whether that discussion turns toward consolidating agencies like school districts or abolishing them, like townships, there tends to be agreement generally that governments should at the very least find ways they can cooperate in order to benefit the taxpaying public.
Sometimes it's a struggle – witness the still unresolved issue of who is going to fund a radio repeater system to make sure police radios work everywhere inside Riverside-Brookfield High School. We're hearing a deal may be on the horizon to finally resolve that issue, but four years to resolve an actual public safety issue seems nuts.
But, recently, there have been some successes.
A few years back, the villages of Riverside and North Riverside joined forces with the Cook County Forest Preserve District to fund construction of a bike/walking path connecting 26th Street to Ridgewood Road along First Avenue.
And just months ago, Brookfield agreed to be the lead agency on an initiative to extend access to a regional bike trail network which would connect the Ottawa Wood Trail with the Salt Creek Trail via a First Avenue/Ogden Avenue trail.
While those are longer term plans, Brookfield residents are getting some immediate value for their investment in local schools through an intergovernmental agreement between Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 and the village of Brookfield.
The deal, which will be officially ratified by the D 95 school board later this month, is a true partnership. The school district went to taxpayers to make its case for improving and expanding its two campuses, saying that they would open up the new facilities to residents in return.
We're sure many taxpayers gave that promise a bit of side-eye. But school officials have made good on that promise with this agreement, which opens the gyms at both S.E. Gross Middle School and Brook Park School to accommodate programs run by the Brookfield Recreation Department.
With the village sorely lacking indoor facilities to run youth and adult sports programming as well as other programs, like children's theater, the school district is stepping in to provide those venues.
In exchange, the village is waiving water bills for the school district – reportedly less than $10,000 annually. The school district also gets priority use of Kiwanis and Ehlert parks and the rec hall at the village hall.
That's a great deal for the village, the recreation department and residents, who over the past two decades have not had the most robust local recreation options available. The village's renewed emphasis on recreation programs recognizes the need to serve all age groups and the school district's openness to a partnership with the village is a sign that more of the same may be possible in the future.
Here's hoping other village governments and school districts use this kind of cooperation as a model to better serve those who pay the bills to keep them running.