California’s most affluent special districts nearly doubled their spending over the course of a decade, while the value of their cash and investments nearly tripled, according to a Southern California News Group analysis of state data.
The figures revive the question many good-government advocates have been asking for decades: Do special districts, which operate largely under the public radar, simply have too much money?
Critics say they do, and argue that their functions should be absorbed into cities and counties that overlap their boundaries.
Special districts say they don’t, insisting they simply safeguard vital infrastructure and are better left alone.
California’s 250 largest special districts had cash and investments worth $47.1 billion when the 2017 fiscal year drew to a close, up dramatically from $17.9 billion a decade earlier, according to data from the State Controller’s Office. That’s a leap of almost $30 billion, or 164 percent.
Total spending, meanwhile, jumped nearly 100 percent — from $27.4 billion to $53.5 billion.