Many may not know that Walt Disney World is located within a special governing district called The Reedy Creek Improvement District. This district was created back in 1967 when The Reedy Creek Improvement Act was passed. The act established the area around the Walt Disney World Resort as the Reedy Creek Improvement District and as its own governmental authority.
The district includes four theme parks, two water parks, a sports complex, over 150 miles of roadway, over 40,000 hotel rooms, and hundreds of restaurants. It encompasses about 25,000 acres and 19 landowners including Walt Disney World. It also includes its own fire department. There are currently four fire stations in the district, and they employ a team of firefighters, administrative personnel, 911 communicators, and fire inspectors. In addition to their own fire department, they also have their own utility management in the form of Reedy Creek Energy Services.
In April of last year, it was announced that the Florida legislature has passed a law that abolished The Reedy Creek Improvement District. It has also been cited that this abolition of the district could have been retaliation for The Walt Disney Company’s recent change in stance on certain political issues.
The dissolution of The Reedy Creek Improvement District is set to occur in June of this year. Many fear that this change could have a negative effect on Florida taxpayers as Disney currently holds over $1 billion in bond debts with the district. In May of 2022, there was even a lawsuit brought against Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis by taxpayers, however, a judge quickly dismissed it.
Earlier this month, lawmakers, led by Gov. DeSantis announced the intent to move forward with the plan to give the state control over the district. Despite the original announcement that the district would be dissolved, Gov. DeSantis stated that they would instead be aiming for increased state oversight, accountability, and transparency with the district.
The lawmakers claim that this change will not affect resident taxes. Gov. DeSantis is expected to appoint a new, state-controlled, board for the district. While detailed legislation on these proposed changes hasn’t been released, it seems as though the plans include retaining the district but with it being controlled by the state instead of its own Disney-appointed board.
Following the announcement, a spokesman for the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters union stated that the firefighters support the new legislation and increased state oversight. While it was previously unknown what would come of the fire department, Gov. DeSantis has stated that the union workers’ jobs are safe. The union is hoping that the new board will bring improved negotiations of a new contract for the firefighters and paramedics. The last contract had expired four years ago but has been at an impasse.
In February a bill was passed to replace the current governing body's board of the Reedy Creek Improvement District with five appointed members by Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis. The last step is to sign this into law which now appears to be a certainty.
So, the Reedy Creek Improvement District as it has been since 1967 will be no more. The district will be renamed, "Central Florida Tourism Oversight District."
Walt Disney World President, Jeff Vahle released an official statement after having to accept the proposed changes which have now been confirmed to be coming into effect:
"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. 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."
To add to this, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experience & Products, Josh D'Amaro makes a plea to the new board which can be seen in the tweet below. It certainly seems as if Disney is nervous by this change and hope that the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District aims to continue the work to support the Walt Disney World Resort.
UPDATE: Here's a new quote from D'Amaro via Disney about the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District: pic.twitter.com/dSpXuQYt1h— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) March 7, 2023
We will keep you updated as this process continues and provide updates on what changes will come to the Reedy Creek Improvement District and Walt Disney World in the coming months. Is this change a good thing for Florida? Is is a good thing for Walt Disney World? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below or on our Facebook page.
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