The Walt Disney Company recently filed another wave of lawsuits over rising tax valuation of its properties in Orange County Florida.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Disney filed nearly a dozen new lawsuits in May 2017, challenging the manner in which Orange County Appraiser Rick Singh is assessing property values throughout Walt Disney World Resort. His methods of valuing property at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and other resort areas has come under fire, culminating in legal action from the impacted parties. Disney, Universal and Sea World of Florida had previously filed suits challenging the 2015 tax valuations for their property.
The valuation changes not only impact the small amount of Walt Disney World land covered by Disney Vacation Club dues, but thousands of acres of hotel and theme park property for which Disney itself must pay the tax bill. Among the locations being challenged are the Magic Kingdom (valued at $437 million), Epcot ($446 million), Disney's Hollywood Studios ($339 million), Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge ($153 million) and Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort ($209 million.)
In previous reports, DVCNews.com has detailed how the tax values on Disney Vacation Club resorts have risen, particularly over the period of 2014 to 2016. Many properties have seen their tax assessments rise 10% annually over the 3 year period. Property taxes are an element of the DVC Annual Dues, resulting in the increases being passed along to owners.
Universal and its hotel partners are similarly challenging valuations on their four hotels: Cabana Bay, Hard Rock, Portofino Bay and Royal Pacific.
Challenges to property values are not uncommon. Disney has a history of working with county officials to negotiate and adjust initial determinations before the rates are finalized. However, at the heart of this dispute is Singh's unique methodology which differs from his predecessors.
The Sentinel quotes a Disney spokesperson as saying "[t]he increases in the assessments of our property are unreasonable and unjustified." Singh was elected to the County Appraiser post in 2012 with voters granting him a second term in November 2016.