Disney special district says 'we don't know where we are going' after DeSantis signs law

The Reedy Creek Improvement District's board of supervisors is stumped as far as what new legislation will mean for its financial obligations

The private governing body of Walt Disney World, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, is unsure of what the exact repercussions will be from the legislation Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed to dissolve it in June 2023.

The district, which was set up in 1967 and includes parts of two counties, can levy its own taxes and develop its own infrastructure. Its 2022 operating budget is more than $169 million, but how the needs of the area and its people in future is anyone’s guess at this point.

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One issue identified so far are what will happen to planned expansion of a solar power project. If financing becomes an issue, the project could be placed on hold indefinitely.

Another involves the district’s firefighters’ union, which represents nearly half of the 400 district employees. Union head Jon Shirey said he asked the board of supervisors to assure firefighters that their jobs and lifetime benefits are secure.

So far, there has been no response to the union, but Reedy Creek board of supervisors member Donald Greer told The Associated Press that even the board is unsure of what effect the new legislation will have.

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"The district may have a response as soon as we know what it means, but I don’t know if anybody knows what it means. I don’t think anyone has deciphered it," Greer said.

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DIS THE WALT DISNEY CO. 100.77 -0.69 -0.68%

One guess from critics of the legislation is that neighboring counties will see spikes in taxes to account for nearly $1 billion in district debts. DeSantis has shrugged off such concerns, stating that there will be more legislation to address such issues.

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In the meantime, Greer said the board does not have answers to the looming questions surrounding the fate of the district, because "we don’t know where we are going."

The unraveling of the 55-year-old district came about after Disney took a position opposing Florida's new parental rights law, which prohibits schools from holding discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity with young children in kindergarten through third grade.

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Democrats have referred to the legislation as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and many media outlets have repeated this despite DeSantis's office rejecting such a characterization. Disney used the same terminology in a statement, in which the company said the bill "should never have passed and should never have been signed into law."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.