April 25, 2022
More Than $1 Billion in Disney Debt, Taxpayers of Florida May Be Footing the Bill
When you hear “Disney”, you think of family fun and dreams of little children who want to become part of Disney World’s magic. However, trouble has been on the horizon, with Disney and the current Florida governor at odds. Recent tensions could greatly impact Florida taxpayers, especially in Orange County and Osceola County.
What is the Reedy Creek Improvement District?
In 1967, Disney was allowed to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District. This gave Disney World and its subsidiaries full control over Disney World and the government services it needs. Now, a bill has been passed by the Florida House of Representatives that dissolves the special improvement district. This change takes effect June 2023 and will cause a huge burden, of almost $1 billion, that goes directly to the taxpayer base in Orange and Osceola counties.
Presently, Disney taxes itself to pay for its government services like water, fire, utilities, sewage, emergency services, and infrastructure. With 25,000 acres in both counties, four theme parks, a sports complex, and two water parks, this could prove detrimental for taxpayers. Disney is the largest taxpayer in central Florida, paying $280 million in taxes from 2015 to 2020.
According to Tax Collector, Scott Randolph, “The moment that Reedy Creek doesn’t exist is the moment that those taxes don’t exist. Orange County can’t just slap a new taxing district onto that area and recoup the money that was lost.”
What Could Be the Impact of the Dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District?
Disney and Governor DeSantis became at odds when Disney opposed the new “Don’t Say Gay” Bill. What wasn’t considered, were the other potential problems this could cause for the residents of Orange and Osceola counties. There are outstanding bonds between $1 billion and $1.7 billion in Reedy Creek. If the district is dissolved, guess who gets those liabilities? The local governments. If these bonds are transferred to those counties, it could amount to almost $1,000 per taxpayer. Not only would it directly impact Orange and Osceola County, but those costs would trickle throughout Florida.
One of the biggest draws for corporations moving to Florida is the appeal of all the activities and amenities. In addition, the tax incentives are a strong consideration. The governor dismantling a district that’s the size of Orlando could also impact the possibility of businesses moving to Florida to create jobs.
While it was argued that dismantling the Reedy Creek district near Disney would be good for boosting Florida’s economy, taxpayers should prepare for the fallout, because it seems as if the opposite is about to happen. Recent predictions show that the financial burden of property tax obligations will be completely transferred to Orange and Osceola counties, leaving them under financial stress.
The fallout has already started, but people do expect the legislature in Florida to change its tune. The rest remains to be seen.
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