There is a lingering public perception that the number of special districts is growing, particularly independent special districts, contributing to increased bureaucracy and inefficiency. The truth is that the overall number of special districts has edged down from 3,454 districts in 1977-78, to 3,359 in 1997-98. And the number of independent districts has dropped by more than 150 in the past twenty years, going from 2,340 districts to 2,176 in 1997-98.
Since the 1980s, newly formed special districts have been primarily revenue-generating districts. Proposition 13's limits on property taxes forced special districts to find other ways to raise money to pay for services. Enterprise districts, as well as community service districts and county service areas, have become increasingly popular due to their flexibility, broad range of service, and ability to generate user fees.