ELI Supports Proposed Federal Definition of "Special District"
The National Special Districts Coalition (NSDC) has proposed a new definition of "special district" for Congress to use when authorizing or funding federal programs. As an active member of the Coalition, the EveryLibrary Institute recognizes the pivotal role this definition can play in ensuring equitable access to federally-funded programs and resources for special districts nationwide.
The National Special Districts Coalition (NSDC) has proposed a new definition of "special district" for Congress to use when authorizing or funding federal programs. As an active member of the Coalition, the EveryLibrary Institute recognizes the pivotal role this definition can play in ensuring equitable access to federally-funded programs and resources for special districts nationwide. According to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) 2018 Public Library Survey (PLS), at least 1,400 of our nation's 9,261 public libraries are "library districts" organized as special districts under state laws. Public libraries in 21 states could benefit from this new definition.
Special districts are crucial components of local governance, providing essential services to millions of Americans. However, the absence of a consistent definition for "special district" has resulted in inconsistencies in federal program eligibility and limited access to federally-sourced assistance for infrastructure projects, community programs, and direct access to federal relief programs like ARPA and CARES.
The proposed NSDC definition of a "special district" [https://www.nationalspecialdistricts.org/blogs/cole-karr2/2023/05/11/advancing-top-priority-nsdc-formally-proposes-fede] reads as follows: "Special District - A political subdivision of a State, with specified boundaries, created pursuant to general law or act of the State, for the purpose of performing limited and specific governmental or proprietary functions, except that it is not a school district, college, county, city, town, township, village, parish, borough, or other general-purpose unit of government. This definition serves to clarify the unique role and functions of special districts and distinguishes them from other forms of local government."
The EveryLibrary Institute endorses this definition and urges Congress to adopt it when authorizing new programs and appropriating funding. It is essential that library special districts can directly access relevant federal programs. We believe this definition will lower barriers to library districts' eligibility for new programmatic funding.
Across the United States, special districts are local government entities established by communities to fulfill specific services that municipal or state services do not provide. They possess their own tax and revenue base, can issue bonds, and are overseen by locally-elected or locally-appointed boards of trustees or directors. These districts play a crucial role in delivering services such as libraries, parks, drinking water, wastewater treatment, fire protection, emergency response, and many others that directly impact the well-being of communities. As a member of the NSDC, the EveryLibrary Institute is committed to working alongside other special district stakeholders and local government organizations to ensure that special districts are accurately defined, understood, and have greater access to federally-funded programs.
The EveryLibrary Institute supports the NSDC's proposed federal definition of "special district." This critical milestone lays the foundation for future advocacy efforts, ensuring that special districts are recognized, understood, and empowered to access federally-funded programs and resources. By collectively advancing the cause of special districts, we can enhance the delivery of essential services to millions of Americans and foster stronger local communities nationwide.