Self government

DeSantis Signs Legislation Dissolving Walt Disney World Self-Government

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill on Friday that dissolves private self-government at Walt Disney World.

The law eliminates the Reedy Creek Improvement District — as the 55-year-old Disney government is known — along with a handful of other similar districts statewide by June 2023.

The measure allows neighborhoods to potentially be reinstated, leaving Disney room to renegotiate its future.

When Florida Republicans took action against Disney’s special ward, some said it created more problems than it solved.

“It could be a very conservative $1 billion,” said Florida Atlantic University professor Sophia Johan.

Johan talks about the cost to taxpayers in two Florida counties of the loss of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, more than $500 per person.

“If you cut their fire and security departments, will the counties take over or will there be significant unemployment?” John said.

That’s because undoing a special district, as they’re called, can be tricky.

There are currently more than 1,800 such districts in Florida, ranging from Disney to The Villages — which has 14 development districts — and smaller districts like the Lake Worth drainage district in Palm Beach County.

“Our job is to drain water from the neighborhood when it’s too wet and to retain water to preserve groundwater levels when it’s too dry,” said Tommy Stroud, executive director of the drainage district of Lake Worth.

The District of Stroud – which has existed for over 100 years – operates by assessing a tax on residents of the southeast county, which pays for the operation of over 500 canals.

This is also how the majority of these districts generally operate in the state, approved by lawmakers to provide a single, highly focused service, unlike Disney which operates as its own small town, making it difficult to disentangle.

“We’re dissolving one that’s extremely active,” Johan said.

Scripps content only 2022

Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera