DeSantis Reveals Plan for Government Oversight of Reedy Creek Improvement District

General DVC News

The state is preparing to move forward with its takover of Walt Disney World's Reedy Creek Improvement District and they have already received support from one impacted group. 

Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle

A notice filed in Osceola County--one of the two Florida counties which encompass Walt Disney World property--provides the first indication of how lawmakers plan to address Reedy Creek Improvement District. The notice details a variety of modifications including: 

"...removing and revising powers of the District; increasing state oversight, accountability, and transparency of the District; revising the selection process, membership qualifications, and compensation for the governing body of the District; ensuring debts and bond obligations held by the District remain with the District and are not transferred to other governments by retaining the District’s authority related to indebtedness and taxation; revising the District’s authority over local permitting and regulation; revising the District’s regulatory framework and structure; instituting reporting requirements, including a review of the District’s remaining powers; describing the District boundaries and name; revising exceptions to general law and certain special acts; removing duplicative provisions; making conforming changes; creating an exception to general law; providing an effective date."

Website summarized the modifications with a quote from State Representative Randy Fine, R-Brevard County: “the big change effectively would be, Reedy Creek might effectively continue to exist, but with government people running it, not private people running it.”

In response to The Walt Disney Company's public opposition to Florida's Parental Rights in Education bill, Governor Ron DeSantis had previously approved measures to remove Reedy Creek Improvement District's autonomy, which dated back to the 1960s. The Disney-controlled district gave the theme park proprietor significant power including the ability to manage city services, set building guidelines and secure public bonds to finance road improvements and other pubic works projects. 

Experts have suggested that the state would have difficulty shifting the district's responsiblities and debt to the state without negatively impacting taxpayers of Orange and Osceola Counties. An October 2022 piece in entertainment industry trade publication Variety suggested that the parties were quietly discussing a compromise which would result in both Disney and state-appointed representatives collaborating on management of the district. However, DeSantis's current plan appears to amount to a state takeover of the district, while also compelling Disney to pay some or all of the outstanding debt. 

Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Local 2117 have come out in support of the changes, with Communications Director Tim Stromsnes telling the Orlando Sentinel “anything has got to be better than what we currently have." In recent years, the union has aired its frustrations over substandard working conditions and poor equipment maintenance. 

A formal bill has not yet been filed in the state legislature. DeSantis has previously set a deadline of June 2023 for the takeover. It remains to be seen if Disney would pursue legal challenges to any of the proposed modifications. In late 2022, Bob Iger returned to Disney after the board elected to dismiss then-CEO Bob Chapek. Iger has not publicly commented on the Reedy Creek situation.