With Walt Disney World Resort's special district status being revoked
effective June 2023, Florida taxpayers could face a $1 billion "Disney debt bomb," CNBC reports
Orange and Osceola counties would have to provide local services that Disney currently provides to its 25,000-acre Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was created in 1967. Disney has full regulatory control over the district and provides numerous government services to it, including fire protection, emergency services, water, utilities, sewage and infrastructure.
Disney taxes itself roughly $105 million a year to provide these services. All told, Disney is central Florida's biggest taxpayer, having paid more than $280 million in property taxes to Orange and Osceola counties between 2015 and 2020.
However, Florida state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who is a supporter of the bill, says the taxes Disney pays to its special district will simply be transferred to the Florida county governments.
What is really at issue, according to the CNBC report, are bond liabilities of $1 billion to $1.7 billion that Reedy Creek carries. The new law will transfer that debt to the local governments. That would amount to a debt of $1,000 per taxpayer, says State Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale.
“If the counties are left holding the bag, the state might have to come to their aid,” Farmer told CNBC. “So it’s not even just a tax issue for these two counties. It affects every taxpayer in the state of Florida.
“The Reedy Creek Improvement District is a local government right now,” he continued. “So the taxpayers of that district already owe that money. Yes, the bonds would go to other municipal governments in the same place. But the revenues go along with it. Disney is taxed by this improvement district. Those taxes are used to pay that debt.”
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