Thanks to a new bill, Walt Disney World has lost control of the board of its own district to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, meaning it will lose some of the privileges and autonomy it has had since 1967.
As reported by The New York Times, Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District will now be known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and DeSantis will have the power to appoint all five of its board members. Florida’s Senate will then be the ones to confirm the choices.
The true impact of this decision obviously remains to be seen, but it will make it possible for, among other things, Florida to tax Disney to help fund road improvements outside the parks. Disney World will also be subject to more state regulatory reviews, which “could cause the cost of building projects at the resort to balloon.”
It isn’t all bad news for Disney, however, as DeSantis originally wanted to abolish Disney World’s special tax district all together following Disney’s opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. For those unaware, this controversial law prevents kindergarten through third grade teachers from including anything related to sexuality or gender in their curriculums.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District was set to be abolished on June 1, 2023, but it was discovered that taxpayers in Orange and Osceola Counties would have to pay for certain Disney World services like fire protection, policing, and road maintenance. Additionally, the district is roughly $1 billion in debt, and that would have been transferred to the counties if the district was abolished.
So, Disney has still kept most of the perks it has enjoyed over the past 56 years, including “the ability to issue tax-exempt bonds and approve development plans without scrutiny from certain local regulators.”
Disney has also chosen not to fight this bill and has agreed to work within its framework.
“For more than 50 years, the Reedy Creek Improvement District has operated at the highest standards, and we appreciate all that the District has done to help our destination grow and become one of the largest economic contributors and employers in the state,” Disney World’s president, Jeff Vahle, said. “We are focused on the future and are ready to work within this new framework and we will continue to innovate, inspire and bring joy to the millions of guests who come to Florida to visit Walt Disney World each year.”
It’s important to note that this new board won’t be able to decide in any way what Disney will build or create in the future, and Disney World already has approval to build another theme park, two additional water parks, and thousands of hotel rooms. While it doesn’t have plans to go forward with any of those at this moment, those options are available through 2032 with the current deal.
Oh, and Disney won’t be able to build a nuclear power plant or airport at the resort, so sorry for any fans who were hoping for those additions.
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