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What is a special district? And why are they important?


“What do you do for work?” Simple enough question asked a million times before, however each time someone poses this to me, I pause and counter back with, “Do you know what a special district is?” Nine out of ten times the person does not know what a special district is. School district? Sure. City or county? Of course! But a special district…never heard of them, BUT they do know their local water, fire, park, cemetery district and others which, of course, are all special districts. In fact, statewide polling shows that constituents place a very high value on districts and the services they provide.

Before I came to work for the California Special Districts Association (CSDA), I didn’t know what a special district was either. Turns out there are over 2,000 of them in California alone and they are one of the truest forms of local government. Special districts are a form of local government created by a community to meet a specific need. Inadequate tax bases and competing demands for existing taxes make it hard for cities and counties to provide all the services their citizens desire. When residents or landowners want new services or higher levels of existing services, they can form a district to pay for and administer them. Nearly 85% of California’s special districts perform a single function such as sewage, water, fire protection, pest abatement, or cemetery management. Multi-function districts, like community services districts, provide two or more services. These local agencies are directly accountable to their residents and they are passionate about providing high-quality services and resources in the most efficient and effective manner

To learn more about special districts, the various types of services they provide, and just what makes them so special, visit CSDA’s online Districts Make the Difference public outreach campaign at To see what special districts serve your local community, check out the most comprehensive and interactive online map of California special districts through the Special Districts Mapping Project at

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