The saga with Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) continues in the state of Florida.
The RCID is a special district under which Disney World’s land has operated for 50+ years. The special district arrangement essentially allows Disney to, in many ways, act as its own county and have a great deal of control over decisions made regarding the land it operates on in Orlando. But a recent bill passed by the Florida legislature and signed into law by the Florida Governor would dissolve the district in 2023 (unless a new agreement is reached). Now some Florida taxpayers are making their voices heard when it comes to this matter.
We’ve discussed some of the roadblocks that Florida may face in dissolving Reedy Creek and what certain representatives have said about the manner in which the bill was passed. One of the major things that has been discussed when it comes to the dissolution of the RCID is how it could impact local counties when it comes to the RCID’s debts.
ClickOrlando.com shared that 3 Florida state senators “criticized the law saying it was done in retribution for the parental rights in education law, it was done in haste without a proper economic analysis, and it could leave residents in Orange and Osceola counties on the hook for well over a billion dollars in the district’s bond debt.”
DeSantis, however, has previously said, “Under no circumstances will Disney not pay its debts,” but he has not specified how that will happen. (Miami Herald)
Now, some taxpayers are making sure their voices are heard when it comes to this debt issue. According to The Hollywood Reporter, taxpayers from counties that surround Disney World have filed a complaint in a Florida federal court about this issue.
In the complaint, they argue that “they and other taxpayers will be burdened with at least $1 billion in Disney’s bond debt if the state follows through with its plan to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”
Through this court action, the residents are seeking to block the law that was passed. The lawsuit notes, “It is without question that Defendant Governor DeSantis intended to punish Disney for a 1st Amendment protected ground of free speech…Defendant’s violation of Disney’s 1st Amendment rights directly resulted in a violation of Plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights to due process of law.”
The residents who filed the lawsuit argue that the dissolution of the RCID will lead to an increase in taxes for the residents in Central Florida in order to pay off Disney’s bond debt. That bond debt is estimated to be somewhere between $1 and $2 billion.
The complaint also discusses how the RCID provides essential services to the land it governs. This includes emergency services, waste management services, and more.
The complaint goes on to say, “Stripping Disney of this special district designation will move these major regulatory burdens unto the county, thereby increasing the Plaintiff’s taxes, and will cause significant injury to plaintiffs.”
The lawsuit alleges that the Florida Supreme Court has “historically given standing to taxpayers allowing them to challenge ‘threatened wrongful proceedings.'” It also claims that people who aren’t technically parties to contracts can still sue under Florida law to enforce them when a breach of that contract could injure them.
And there’s more. The lawsuit also alleges that Florida lawmakers are “‘threatening to take thousands of jobs’ from the state in retaliation for protected speech,” and alleges that “Florida is violating Disney’s constitutional rights.”
Disney really hasn’t made any statements regarding this issue, though the RCID has sent a message to investors indicating that the dissolution of RCID would violate a pledge made to bondholders when the RCID was created.
This is still a developing situation. We’ll be sure to check for more updates and we’ll let you know what we find.