Special Districts and LAFCo

Local Agency Formation Commissions and special districts have a dual relationship in California. LAFCos are responsible for district:

Under LAFCo law, independent special districts may also be seated as a member of LAFCo. Currently 29 of the 58 LAFCos have special district members.


Special Districts in California: A Fact Sheet

Summary of Special District Enabling Acts: Directory of State laws under which districts are formed


Welcome to the resource page for special districts and Local Agency Formation Commissions.

Special Districts and LAFCo

Information on special districts in California and the interactions between special districts and LAFCo.

Community Service District Law
As of January 1, 2006 the new Community Services District (CSD) law took effect. The rewrite of the old 1955 law was done in a collaborative effort by the Senate Local Government Committee. It now provides a viable local government option for communities in unincorporated areas of the state.
CSD Law Update -- Information for LAFCos (doc)
CSD Law Revision Background (doc)

The Senate Local Government Committee has published Community Needs, Community Services which includes the text of the new Community Service District Law and commentary on every section. The publication is available by clicking: Community Needs, Community Services. A 'word' version is available at the Senate Local Government Committee website; click: CNCS Report.

County Service Area Law
As of January 1, 2009 the new County Service Area (CSA) law took effect. The rewrite of the old 1953 law was done in a collaborative effort by the Senate Local Government Committee. The new law carefully spells out the CSAs’ policies, powers, procedures, and oversight duties, and clarifies LAFCo's role in providing oversite.

The Senate Local Government Committee has published Serving The Public Interest. The 129-page report reprints the statute’s actual text and provides authoritative commentary on each section.  Detailed “source” and “disposition” tables tell reviewers where the new CSA Law’s language came from and where substance of the 1953 statute went. The publication is available by clicking: Serving the Public Interest.

Working with Your LAFCo
Describes the relationships between Special Districts and LAFCo and when districts should come to LAFCo for authorizations. Includes keys to building effective working relationships. Updated September, 2009.

LAFCo 101 for Special Districts
Introduction to the roles and responsibilities of Local Agency Formation Commissions, the interactions between special districts and LAFCo, and the benefits for districts to be seated on their LAFCo. Updated June, 2011.

What's So Special About Special Districts
This newly revised fouth edition of the Citizen's Guide to Special Districts explains what special districts are, their history, authority, legal powers, and different ways to understand them. It also tells you where to get more information about special districts and how to form a new district in your community. 4th edition - October, 2010.

The Metamorphasis of Special Districts: Current Methods for Consolidation, Dissolution, Subsidiary District Formation and Merger
This new white paper provides an overview of the typical methods for extinguishing special districts: consolidations, dissolutions, mergers and the establishment of subsidiary districts. Updated August, 2008.

Consolidation of Unlike Districts
In 2007 legislation was signed into law which removed the sunset on the authority for LAFCo to consolidate districts formed under different laws, and added the ability for LAFCo to initiate a proposal to form a successor district.

CSDA Guide to Special District Laws and Codes
Published by the California Special Districts Association, this is an excellent reference guide to the myriad of statutes that affect local governments and special district governance.

Integrity & Accountability: Exploring Special Districts' Governance
Summary of hearings conducted by the Senate Local Government Committee (24 Nov 2003).

Three Reasons to Revisit Special Districts
Published by the Journal of Government Financial Management, this study argues for improved accountability of special districts; which now account for 40% of all local government entities in the U.S. (July, 2009)

State Controller Reports
Key information for LAFCo fiscal matters. For special district financial reports from the State Controller click: Current Local Government Financial Reports.

Seating Special Districts on LAFCo

Special District MapCalifornia law allows independent special districts to hold a seat on the Local Agency Formation Commission in their county. Currently half of the LAFCos (29) have special district representatives on the commission. The information below is designed to assist independent special districts in obtaining a seat on LAFCo.

Map of Special District Representation on LAFCo
Yellow indicates those LAFCos with special district representation

Special Districts on LAFCo: Why, Why Not and How
Presentation by CSD Board Member and LAFCo Commissioner Cathy Schlottman at the 2008 CSDA Annual Conference. Highlights the advantages of a LAFCo seat from a special district perspective.

Process for Seating Districts on LAFCo
Steps and references to government codes governing the seating of special districts on LAFCo.

Sample District Resolution
Sample resolution for a District to request a seat on LAFCo. At least 50% of the independent special districts in the county must pass such a resolution.

Sample Invitation for Districts to Participate
Often the special districts host a meeting for district boardmembers and staff to discuss seating on LAFCo. This is a sample invitation to such a meeting.

Sample "What is LAFCo" Information Sheets for Districts

Sample Alternative Funding MOU
State law allows alternative methods to spread the costs of LAFCo beyond the one-third each to cities, county, and special districts. This is an example of an MOU created for an alternative funding formula.

Links to Other Resources

Growth Within Bounds
Report of the California Commission on Local Governance for the 21st Century which led to major changes in LAFCo law (2000).

California Special Districts Association
Special District Leadership Foundation

Association of California Healthcare Districts
Association of California Water Agencies

California Association of Public Cemeteries
California Association of Recreation and Parks Districts

California Association of Resource Conservation Districts
California Association of Sanitation Agencies
California Rural Water Association

Fire Districts Association of California
Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California

CALAFCO Resource and Publication Page