A bill that requires all independent special districts in California to have a website was signed into law by Governor Brown this month.
State Sen. Mike McGuire’s SB 929 – the Special Districts Transparency Act – requires every independent special district in California to create and consistently maintain a website with specific and detailed information including meeting agendas, clear information on the district’s budget and expenditures, compensation reports, information on how to contact representatives of the district and more.
The California Special District Association (CSDA), which typically resists state mandated programs related to special districts, sponsored the bill, with unanimous support from its member districts. That might seem counterintuitive, but it makes perfect sense. From the CSDA website:
In response to requests from the State Legislature and the Little Hoover Commission, and in furtherance of CSDA’s efforts to increase the awareness, accessibility, and transparency of special districts, CSDA is sponsoring SB 929 (McGuire), which will require all special districts to have a website by 2020.
There have been discussions in the Legislature for years regarding a perceived lack of transparency when it comes to special districts, partially due to the sheer number of districts that don’t have websites. There are over 2,000 special districts in California, however less than half of those districts have a website. These statistics led the Little Hoover Commission, in its 2017 report on special district entitled Special Districts: Improving Oversight & Transparency, to recommend that the Legislature require every special district have a website. It was this increased scrutiny from the Legislature and the recent Little Hoover Commission report that led to CSDA’s decision to act rather than be acted upon.
To go back in time a bit:
May, 2000: The Little Hoover Commission investigates special districts and releases a report: Special Districts: Relics of the Past or Resources for the Future?
The 2018 report offers a multitude of suggestions for content that should be required on district websites: http://www.lhc.ca.gov/report/special-districts-improving-oversight-transparency (Streamline is even mentioned as an affordable way to comply!)
Note that there is the ability for a district to pass a resolution annually, claiming a hardship exemption. Some reasons for this may include:
Lack of access to broadband Internet
Insufficient staff to maintain a website
Inadequate financial resources
The first item is definitely a barrier, but the second and third items shouldn’t be. Platforms like Streamline have pricing that starts at $10 per month for the smallest districts, and are so easy to use that some of our special districts with only one part time admin position keep their sites up to date.
If your district is in need of a website, let us build a free personalized demo site for you with absolutely no obligation, and show you just how easy compliance can be.