Special districts are agencies that provide specialized services across the state. Special districts are created and governed by the local residents who vote to form them and each special district provides specified services for which they were created.
In general, special districts are governed by a Board of Directors that is either elected or appointed. Voters who establish special districts can also elect the district’s Boards of Directors. Boards that are appointed are usually appointed by the elected City Council or the elected Board of Supervisors.
Among the special districts in California there are dependent and independent districts. Dependent districts are those that are governed by a City Council or a County Board of Supervisors. Independent districts have a manager who’s similar to a City Manager or a County Administrative Officer.
The most common type of special district is one focused on a single function. These can include library special districts, flood control districts, irrigation, or even mosquito abatement districts. There are also multi-function districts, such as community service districts, that provide two or more services.
Additionally, districts are characterized as being enterprise or non-enterprise districts. Enterprise districts generally operate like a business. Enterprise districts are funded by user fees for services they provide like water, waste, power, and transportation. The most common enterprise districts are usually utility districts and transportation agencies. Non-enterprise districts do not receive their funding from user fees.
There is also a trade association for the special districts in California called CSDA – the California Special Districts Association. According to CSDA there are about 2,300 independent special districts in the state of California that are accountable to the voters who created these districts as well as the customers to whom they provide these valuable services. Additionally, the state of California provides oversight of the special districts such as through the review of annual financial reports and other oversight provisions.