Illinois has more units of local government and more special purpose districts than any other state in the nation. The Comptroller's Local Government Database contains more than 3,100 special purpose districts, including the fire, library and park districts already discussed in this Report Card. The wide range of definitions relating to special purpose governments causes some difficulty in obtaining an accurate count of the number of units within the state of Illinois.

Currently, special purpose districts serve a variety of functions for the public. These units of government differ from municipalities, townships, and counties because they provide a single service or a group of specific services. They are often created to provide services that municipalities, townships, and counties are unable to provide due to financial constraints.

Special purpose districts, especially smaller ones, have the most difficulty providing accurate and timely financial reports and maintaining administrative records, which result in decreased levels of accuracy in financial reporting. Factors such as obtaining the correct number of districts, names of government officials and financial data make efficient collection and analysis of such special purpose districts challenging.

Several of the larger special purpose governments are segregated and discussed separately from other special districts due to their specific mandated responsibly and their financial size.