Florida Gov. DeSantis wants Florida to control Disney’s special district

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says that he wants to take control over Disney World’s self-governing district, instead of handing it over to local governments if it is dissolved next year.

DeSantis told reporters on Monday that it is fairer for other businesses if the state controls the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District is a special district that was created in 1967. It allows Disney to self-govern its own location. Disney collects taxes and provides emergency services in the district. Reedy Creek spans 25,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties and includes Disney’s four theme parks, two water parks and sports complex.

“The path forward is Disney will not control its own government in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “Disney will have to follow the same laws that every other company has to follow the state of Florida. They will pay their fair share in taxes.”

The new law — which eliminates Disney’s Reedy Creek district and a handful of other ones — is expected to take effect in June 2023.

If the special district is eliminated, Orange and Osceola counties would have to provide the local services currently provided by the special district. The revenue the state receives from the Reedy Creek district (estimated at $105 million annually) would also be gone.

On top of the $105 million, Disney also pays local property taxes. Disney is the largest taxpayer in central Florida, paying over $280 million in property taxes to the counties between 2015 and 2020.

Legislators also warn that local taxpayers will be hit with a bill in the form of bonds totaling more than $1 billion. Under Florida statute, if Reedy Creek is dissolved, those liabilities are transferred to the local governments.

While DeSantis didn’t provide any concrete details, he said that Disney would be responsible for paying back the nearly $1 billion.

“That debt will not end up going to any of these local governments,” he said. “It’s not going to go to the state government, either. It’s going to absolutely be dealt with, with the taxpayers who are currently in that district.”

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