Special District Accountability Program:
Reasons Why Special Districts Are Created
The Florida Legislature, municipalities, counties, and the Governor and Cabinet create special districts for use by the private and public sectors for many different reasons. For example:
- Special districts are created for the private and public sectors to finance, construct, operate, and maintain capital infrastructure, facilities, and services.
- Special districts often generate their own revenue to pay for projected growth (such as providing additional services, facilities, and infrastructure) without requiring other all taxpayers - who don't benefit from the special district's services - to pay; in other words, only those who benefit from the special district's services actually pay. Common revenue sources include:
- Ad valorem Assessments
- Non-ad valorem assessments
- User fees
- Tax Increment Financing
- Special districts can provide services when growth and development issues transcend the boundaries, responsibilities, and authority of individual municipalities and counties. This is the reason we have regional, and multi-county special districts.
- Special districts - since they are local governments - are able to save money for their citizens by selling tax-exempt bonds (to provide financing), purchasing essential goods and services tax-free, and participating in state programs and initiatives, such as state-term contracting.
- Special districts provide highly specialized local governmental services - often in response to citizen demand - that a municipality or county is unable or unwilling to provide.
- Special districts can be governed by a board of appointed or elected members who have the expertise to focus on the specialized function of the special district. This allows municipalities and counties to focus on general governmental issues.
- Special districts provide opportunities for citizens to get involved in government at the neighborhood/community level since it is often possible for them to serve on the district's governing board. Further, governing board meetings are usually held near their homes, making it more convenient for citizens to attend governing board meetings.
- Special districts ensure accountability of public resources because special districts and their governing boards are held to the same high standards as municipalities and counties and their governing boards. Examples of accountability standards include requirements to comply with financial reporting, Government-in-the-Sunshine, and ethics laws.
- Special districts protect property values by assuring property owners that their roads, water and sewer lines, and other essential facilities and services will continue to be maintained.
- Special districts are more financially secure because their liability is limited in the case of civil lawsuits and special districts can receive state assistance in the event of a financial emergency.
- Special districts provide for a local special-purpose governmental agency with funding, employment, and missions separate from local general-purpose government.
- Special districts can recruit qualified employees by offering governmental employment benefits and incentives, such as participation in Florida’s Deferred Compensation Plan and possible participation in the Florida Retirement System and housing assistance programs for certain employed personnel.