There has been so much talk and speculation about Disney and their “special tax loopholes”, as sighted through the ready creek improvement district. I have bitten my tongue these last few days but feel it’s a good time now to say something.
It is true that Disney enjoys a special legislative designation in regard to its property in central Florida. When the Disney corporation first sought land, there was a priority to seek control of a vast amount of land, all contiguous in nature. That is why the Disney corporation entered negotiations, and eventually secured a special legislative designation from the Florida legislature and Gov. Claude Kirk. The idea was simple: Disney was to retain legislative control of their land, an area the size of San Francisco, through an act of legislature that established the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Essentially, Disney incorporated their own county, with its chair seat of Celebration on the south end of the property.
Today, much of that remains in place, with little major alterations to the original agreement. This was done with a very particular goal in mind. Circumvent the threat of eminent domain from governing bodies. Seeing the issues of hyper development and crowding around their California Park, Disney wanted to ensure that all growth and Development around WDW was controlled by the corporation. No Libraries, easements for county roads and right of ways, no fire or police stations in conspicuous spots. That was the goal. Disney could plan the community as they saw fit, provided there was no threat to life and no breach of rights to homeowners. (This is why prior to the hyper expensive HOA near Magic Kingdom), the few residents who lived in celebration were Disney executives and upper-level managers.
There is no question that Disney does receive special taxation privileges through this agreement, but few recognize the many legal requirements they agreed to, to enjoy this designation. Though Disney is not paying into Orange or Osceola counties for fire rescue services or general police services, they do have to provide them on property privately. The Reedy Creek Fire Department is required to be fully certified, proportionally staffed, and regularly inspected to ensure services rendered are sufficient for the needs of the territory. All roads within the bounds of the property are established and maintained in a partnership much like any other county or city would engage in with the FDOT. Finally, Disney is required to engage in in depth water monitoring and environmental protection as any other municipal government does. Given the perceived environmental impact of the house of mouse, water quality and water distribution were huge points of interest in the development of the district. That continues today.
Why do I bring all this up? Simple: Though many are quick to say pull Disney’s special privileges, they fail to understand the wide impact that would have on local government. I sincerely doubt that Orange and Osceola Counties are prepared to address the power usage needs of the WDW resort. If Disney loses special privileges, they will have to shut down their power station (which supplies surplus power to the 192-tourist corridor), as the power station is a special privilege enjoyed through their governmental agreement. No governmental body means no governmental authority for power development. If we pull Disney’s special designation, then the water treatment facility will have to revert to another governmental authority for supervision and continued use. With a quarter million people per day visiting Disney World, the roads impact will be shifted to county and state monitoring and up-keep. Let’s not even get into fire rescue and police services.
It’s been a long post, but it all boils down to this: Where is the benefit to removing this special designation? Local government is not in a spot to handle this volume of work. Any resident in the area can tell you that. Though the tax revenues will increase to the local counties and state, I have yet to find a governing body that can maintain the level of service expected by typical residents let alone a billion-dollar business model. The Disney corporation absorbs substantial costs for continued governmental operation that the counties don’t have to worry about. The counties receive substantial bed tax and sales tax revenue they otherwise would not. Disney gets to rest easy that they will not have an unwanted sewer lift station in the heart of their monorail depot, and the counties don’t have to worry about maintaining some the worlds most traveled roads.
It would be wise for Disney to see this as a hint to stay in their lane when it comes to politics. Of course, your entitled to your opinion, but make sure it’s thought out and researched in advance. There are consequences for your actions. The state of Florida government and local counties must also do the same. Make sure you are not biting off more than you can chew. Business don’t dictate your actions, but your actions can have disastrous business effects if not thought out as well. Both sides have devolved into a virtue signaling fight, postering to a rabid crowd that rarely sees the full picture. There is a reason Disney’s special legislative designation has been in place for 55 years, and I can assure you it’s a mutually beneficial one. Don’t allow the emotions of a current event lead you into a decision with long term deleterious effect. No matter what side of the argument you are on. For the record, Mr. Chapek, your company has lost 26% value in 14 months and are now facing a growing mob bent on revoking the self-rule designation of your bread winning business division. You may want to think twice before challenging the chief executive of the state. Especially over a legislative matter that was heavily mischaracterized with severe implications on the quality of life to minors.