Special Districts

 

Background

Independent special districts are formed under California law for the performance of local governmental functions within specific boundaries. Special districts range in size and often cross political boundary lines, such as city and/or county borders, to serve a common good. There is a clear identification of services provided, which results in a high level of accountability to the public, and a high degree of customer satisfaction. As such, they are an integral part of local government and contribute significantly to the quality of life in the communities they serve.

Districts are governed by board of directors, or trustees, elected or appointed to fixed terms, and are directly accountable to the public. Boards are subject to initiative, referendum, recall, the Brown Act and other related public agency statutes. The directors/trustees are members of the communities they serve and must reside in or own property within their respective service areas. They often work and interact within the community in which they reside.

 

Definition

There are two types of special districts: Independent and Dependent

Independent special districts are separate local agencies, created by local petition or through popular election. They are directly accountable to their constituents, not another layer of government.

Independent special districts are further characterized as enterprise and non-enterprise districts. Non-enterprise districts provide those governmental services on a district-wide basis which cannot be economically funded solely through user fees, such as fire protection, parks and libraries. For this reason, non-enterprise districts rely primarily on a portion of local property tax revenues to fund their facilities and services. Enterprise districts, on the other hand, usually provide direct, site specific services to property within their district and may recover most or all of their service delivery costs through rates imposed on users of the service.

Dependent special districts are administrative extensions of cities or counties. They depend on another unit of government for their existence, and are only accountable to this layer of government.

 

Services

These agencies fill local service gaps throughout the state, as requested by local voters. Services provided include: airport, cemetery, fire protection, harbor, healthcare, mosquito and vector control, municipal improvement, park and recreation, police, reclamation and transportation, water, wastewater treatment, and other related community services. They are independently audited and subject to state and public scrutiny like other forms of government.

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