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Disney World may be able to keep the unusual self-governing status the theme park has enjoyed in Florida for decades — despite the fact that Gov. Ron DeSantis last week signed a law to revoke it.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District says that Florida cannot legally dissolve the Disney-dominated self-governing entity next year unless the state covers the estimated $1 billion in outstanding bond debt.
The district, which was created by Florida to entice California-based Disney to build a theme park on land that straddles both Orange and Osceola Counties in the late 1960s, is legally empowered to govern its own affairs.
Reedy Creek sent a letter to bondholders last week citing language of the 1967 law which states that Florida “will not in any way impair the rights or remedies of the holders…until all such bonds together with interest thereon, and all costs and expenses in connection with any act or proceeding by or on behalf of such holders, are fully met and discharged.”
That is why RCID said it expects to continue to maintain its quasi-independent status despite the newly enacted repeal.
“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,” according to the letter to bondholders.
The existence of the letter — the first public comment by RCID since the GOP-led state government moved to strip Disney of its special status — was reported on Wednesday by CNN.
Gov. DeSantis last week signed into law a new measure that revokes RCID’s special status.
The law doesn’t specify the precise mechanism through which authorities plan to dismantle RCID. The Post has reached out to DeSantis’ office seeking comment.
County officials in Orange and Osceola warned that the dissolution of RCID would create an enormous tax burden on residents since they would be on the hook for outstanding bond debt.
The move, which was endorsed by Florida’s GOP-dominated state legislature, was made in response to Disney’s public opposition to a law banning sexual and gender identity education for children before the fourth grade.
After initial reluctance to take a public stance on the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, Disney, which was facing internal opposition from employees demanding a more forceful response, released a statement vowing to help strike down the law in court.