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Fla. governor: Reedy Creek firefighters ‘should be making more money’

Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will likely assume control of Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, rather than local governments absorbing it


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions during a press conference at Seminole State College in Sanford, Florida, Monday, May 16, 2022. DeSantis, at the school to announce $125 million in funding for nursing education, said the state will likely take over Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, rather than local governments absorbing it.

Photo/Joe Burbank

Orlando Sentinel

SANFORD, Fla. — The state will likely assume control of Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, rather than local governments absorbing it, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday.

DeSantis said he is working on a proposal that likely will be considered by the Legislature after the November elections.

Reedy Creek, which encompasses Disney World and neighboring properties, is set to dissolve on June 1, 2023. The governor’s office hasn’t released a written plan detailing how the dissolution of Disney World’s private government will unfold.

At an event in Sanford, DeSantis also insisted Central Florida taxpayers will not be forced to absorb the district’s nearly $1 billion in debt.

“The path forward is, Disney will not control its own government in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “Disney will have to follow the same laws that every other company has to follow in the state of Florida. They will pay their share of taxes, and they will be responsible for paying the debts.”

Under state law, the district’s assets and liabilities would be transferred to the “local general purpose government” when it’s abolished. Those governments include Orange and Osceola counties and the Disney-controlled cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista.

But DeSantis said he wants to put the state in charge of the district, while ensuring that Disney would continue to pay the taxes needed to maintain services for its theme park and resort properties. He suggested his plan could even result in higher pay for Reedy Creek’s firefighters.

[Gov. DeSantis’ remarks about Reedy Creek begin at 35:20, noting, “I think these firefighters there should be making more money]

“I’d much rather have the state leading that effort than potentially having local government (in charge). ... I’m worried that they (local officials) would use that as a pretext to raise taxes on people when that’s what they would want to do anyways and then try to blame Reedy Creek. So we’re not going to give them that opportunity,” he said.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said in April absorbing the district’s debts and liabilities with no new revenues could be “catastrophic” to the county’s budget and local taxpayers, who would shoulder the burden of providing public safety and other services for the entertainment giant’s properties.

Lawmakers didn’t conduct an economic study and rushed the bill through in April with only three days of consideration.

[Read next: What is the Reedy Creek Improvement District? Inside Disney’s de facto government]

DeSantis has been feuding with Disney over its opposition to HB 1557, officially titled Parental Rights in Education but known as the “don’t say gay” law by critics. DeSantis blasted Disney as a “woke” corporation, while Disney halted its political giving in Florida.

Reedy Creek, which is controlled by Disney, can issue tax-free bonds, levy taxes, oversee land use and environmental protections and provide essential public services.

In May, Central Florida Democrats expressed concern that a state-run district would allow the governor to pick the board members who oversee the special district.

Presently, a five-member Board of Supervisors oversees Reedy Creek. As the primary landowner, Disney selects who sits on the board.


Read next:

Reedy Creek: The happiest fire department on earth

As the sole provider of emergency services for Walt Disney World properties in Orlando, Fla., Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters have one of the most unique missions in the country

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