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About Us

Our Mission

It is the purpose of this organization to advocate constructive means for the improvement and functioning of independent Special Districts within the County of Santa Barbara, and to assist such independent Special Districts and their governing bodies.

Definition of a Special District

State law defines a special district as "any agency of the state for the local performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limited boundaries." In plain language, a special district is a separate local government that delivers a limited number of public services to a geographically limited area.

Special districts have four distinguishing characteristics:

1. Are a form of government.
2. Have governing boards.
3. Provide services and facilities.
4. Have defined boundaries.

Benefits of Special Districts

Special districts tailor services to meet local needs.  Counties and cities must protect their residents' health, safety, and welfare and, thus, must provide many services, regardless of citizen demand.  Special districts, however, only provide the services that their communities desire.

Special districts link costs to benefits.  General purpose local governments – counties and cities – levy general taxes to pay for public services.  The services that taxpayers receive are not directly related to the amount of taxes they pay.  In a special district, only those who benefit from the district's services pay for them.  Those who do not benefit do not pay.

Special districts respond to their constituents.  Because most special districts are geographically smaller and have fewer residents than counties and cities, they're more responsive to their constituents.  Small groups of citizens can be quite effective in influencing special districts' decisions.


A Citizen's Guide to Special Districts in California – Fourth Edition


  • Focused Service – Each special district performs a specific set of services well and without distractions, which leads to innovation as well as prudent long-term planning. They heighten the level of services desired by their constituencies and deliver unmet service needs.
  • Economic Solutions – Special districts can offer just the amount of government that residents want at the price they can afford. Where residents want a specific, new or enhanced service they can trust will be delivered, a special district can succeed; and, a district will link the cost of that service to the benefit.
  • Infrastructure – Special districts can build and operate urgently needed infrastructure without straining city, state or county balance sheets.
  • Flexibility & Regional Capacity – Special districts can serve large regions or small neighborhoods based on need, not political boundaries—no other type of government can cross city and county lines. This offers flexibility to address the unique needs of our diverse state's communities.
  • Voter Driven – Special districts cannot be formed, nor raise taxes, without the consent of the voters. Most of these districts are governed by board members elected from their communities; others are appointed to fixed terms.
  • Open & Transparent – Special districts must file an annual independent audit with the county auditor and an annual financial statement and compensation report with the State Controller. Local Agency Formation Commissions conduct regular municipal service reviews of special districts. And, every special district board must comply with FPPC regulations, the Public Records Act, and all open meeting requirements in the Brown Act.
  • Special districts offer exceptionally responsive governance because they directly oversee service delivery and interaction with constituents by focusing on a specific service—water delivery, fire protection, parks and recreation, etc.—districts pay greater attention than bigger bureaucracies to both long-term planning and everyday constituent and rate-payer feedback.
  • Special district board members are required by law to complete ethics training every two years – Under Assembly Bill 1234, every public official of a local agency is required to attend ethics training. All board members serving on a special district must receive this training upon election or appointment, and must become re-certified every two years.
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