Special Purpose Districts in Washington
In Washington State, 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.
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 pages below provide an overview of special purpose districts, including information on their formation and dissolution, elections, and lists of existing special purpose districts and types.
- What is a Special Purpose District? - Overview of the various ways in which the term "special purpose district" has been defined in Washington State and sets out criteria to distinguish special districts with autonomous governing bodies from other types of districts.
- Special Purpose Districts Overview - Chart providing name of district, classification, date of legislation and citation, the purpose of the district, method of formation, governance, funding, and estimated number of existing districts.
- Types of Special Purpose Districts - Includes the types of districts authorized by the state legislature, categorized by general purpose and function.
Existing Special Purpose Districts
- How Many Special Purpose Districts in Washington? - Discusses the number of special purpose district local governments in Washington State, as counted by various sources.
- List of Special Purpose Districts by County - Provides a periodically updated list in Excel of special purpose districts in each county; also includes cities that are included in the districts either through annexation or at the time of formation as well as inactive, merged, and dissolved districts.
- List of Special Districts by Type of District and County - Provides a periodically updated list of special purpose districts and the counties in which they exist; also includes cities that are included in the districts either through annexation or at the time of formation. The number of each type of district is totaled.
- List of Washington Cities and Towns that are within the Boundaries of Special Districts - Separate sheets include cities (cities and towns) in all districts - Alphabetically by city: cities in fire districts, cities in hospital districts, cities in library districts, cities in the various park districts, and water-sewer districts that are within city boundaries.
- Formation and Dissolution of Special Purpose Districts - Overview of the processes to form or dissolve a special purpose district in Washington State.
- Elections in Special Purpose Districts - Basic statutes relating to special purpose district elections in Washington State.
- Revenues of Special Purpose Districts - Overview of revenue sources for special purpose districts in Washington State, including property taxes, debt, and other mechanisms.
- Special Purpose Districts in Washington State (2003) - MRSC publication offering detailed information about special purpose districts, including a brief history, pros and cons of forming special purpose districts, and more.
- Special District Information Sources - List of helpful links and resources related to special purpose districts.