The Walt Disney Co. has remained publicly silent since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law last week dissolving a special district set up 55-years ago to let the company self-govern much of the area around Walt Disney World.
But the special district weighed in last week, before the law was signed, in a note sent to investors. The Reedy Creek Improvement District suggested that the district can’t be dissolved until bonds are paid off. In the meantime, the district is considering its options while conducting business as usual, according to the note, which was posted online.
“In light of the State of Florida’s pledge to the District’s bondholders, Reedy Creek expects to explore its options while continuing its present operations, including levying and collecting its ad valorem taxes and collecting its utility revenues, paying debt service on its ad valorem tax bonds and utility revenue bonds, complying with its bond covenants and operating and maintaining its properties,” the district said. WESH-TV in Orlando first reported on the note.
The district noted that the legislation that created the district in 1967 provided that that state would not limit the ability of the district to “fulfill the terms of any agreement made with the holders of any bonds or other obligations of the District.”
DeSantis’ signed the legislation after The Walt Disney Co. came out publicly against a parental rights bill that restricts public school classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from Kindergarten through the third grade. Critics have dubbed the law the “don’t gay gay” bill, and contend that it is so broadly written that it will stigmatize the LGBTQ community.
At an event in which he signed the legislation, DeSantis was clear that he was taking the action as punishment for the company’s stance, as he claimed that the company had “intentional agenda” to “inject sexuality into the programming that is provided to our youngest kids.”
The district’s bond debt is believed to be close to $1 billion, and while it’s still unclear who would assume it once Reedy Creek is dissolved, Democrats say the burden would fall on Orange and Osceola counties. In its note, Reedy Creek noted that under the state’s Uniform Special District Accountability Act, “the dissolution of a special district government shall transfer title to all of its property to the local general purpose government, which shall also assume all indebtedness of the preexisting special district.”
The district was created as a taxing entity to raise money to build roads and other infrastructure. But it also has given Disney control over its property, including in such areas as land use and environmental measures, as well as the power to operate its own fire department.
The law sets June 1, 2023 as the date to dissolve the district. A district can seek to be reestablished after that.
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