Special district governments are independent, special purpose governmental units, other than school district governments, that exist as separate entities with substantial administrative and fiscal independence from general purpose local governments. As defined for Census Bureau statistics on governments, the term ‘‘special district governments’’ excludes school district governments as they are defined as a separate governmental type.
Special district governments provide specific services that are not being supplied by existing general purpose governments. Most perform a single function, but in some instances, their enabling legislation allows them to provide several, usually related, types of services. The services provided by these districts range from such basic social needs as hospitals and fire protection, to the less conspicuous tasks of mosquito abatement and upkeep of cemeteries.
The Census Bureau classification of special district governments covers a wide variety of entities, most of which are officially called districts or authorities. Not all public agencies so termed, however, represent separate governments. Many entities that carry the designation ‘‘district’’ or ‘‘authority’’ are, by law, so closely related to county, municipal, town or township, or state governments that they are classified as subordinate agencies of those governments in Census Bureau statistics on governments, and are not counted as separate special district governments.
In order to be classified as a special district government, rather than as a subordinate agency, an entity must possess three attributes—existence as an organized entity, governmental character, and substantial autonomy. Each state description also lists various statutory authorities, commissions, corporations, and other forms of organizations that have certain governmental characteristics, but are subject by law to administrative or fiscal control by the state or by independent local governments; therefore, they are classified as subordinate agencies of those governments.