In Washington, special purpose districts are limited purpose local governments separate from a city, town, or county government. Generally they perform a single function, though some perform a limited number of functions. They provide an array of services and facilities including electricity, fire protection, flood control, health, housing, irrigation, parks and recreation, library, water-sewer service and more recently stadiums, convention centers, and entertainment facilities that are not otherwise available from city or county governments. Over the years, the Washington legislature has enabled more than 80 different special purpose districts. The number of special district statutes counted may vary depending on the definition of a special district.
Authority for some districts has been repealed, some special district statutes have been consolidated, and most all have been amended to accommodate changing conditions. Once thought of as existing only in unincorporated portions of counties, many district statutes allow the inclusion of cities and towns. Some districts have provisions for a county-wide district, some are multi-county, while others provide for interlocal cooperation agreements. The multiplicity and variety of special districts within a local area can be confusing.
The purpose of these webpages is to provide an overview of special purpose districts in Washington. This page provides additional supplements to MRSC Report No. 58, Special Purpose Districts in Washington State, August 2003.
Special Purpose Districts Authorized by the Legislature
Existing Special Purpose Districts
Organization of Special Purpose Districts