America's Property Tax Advisor

Florida Seeks to Dissolve Disney's

Special Tax District

BY JOHN HEATLEY, ORLANDO, MAY 2022

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that eliminates the special legal arrangement allowing the Walt Disney Corporation to operate as an independent government around its theme parks in Orlando.

 

The move comes as Florida’s Republican-led government has taken aim at Disney for its opposition to a law restricting education on LGBTQ issues.

 

House Bill 3-C and Senate Bill 4-C

 

Identical companion bills declare that any special district created before November 1968 will be dissolved.

 

The dissolution of the special district could mean that Orange and Osceola counties would take on the assets and liabilities of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which encompasses nearly 40 square miles around the Walt Disney World Resort.

 

Reedy Creek

 

Under current law, landowners of the Reedy Creek District are responsible for paying the cost of services that local governments would normally provide. The district functions by taxing landowners, mainly Disney, and issuing bonds to pay for major projects and public services.

 

Through the taxes it collects, Reedy Creek provides services including fire protection and emergency medical treatment, flood control, trash collection, power distribution, water treatment and road building and maintenance. The district also oversees its own building code and issues permits, giving Disney more control over what it builds and eliminating red tape during the construction process.

 

What Happens Next?

 

It’s not entirely clear what the law will mean for taxpayers. Since it calls for the district to be abolished on June 1, 2023, that leaves time for details to be worked out.

 

Observers say Disney could file a lawsuit. The law also allows for special districts to be reestablished after June 1 of next year.