Future of Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District remains uncertain

No plans announced to replace government services when special district dissolves in June 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law abolishing the Reedy Creek Improvement District by next summer, but there are still no formal plans to replace it.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Less than 11 months before the Reedy Creek Improvement District is scheduled to be abolished, there are still no announced plans to replace any of the governmental services the special taxing district currently provides to the Walt Disney World resort property.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill in April that dissolves the Reedy Creek Improvement District, or RCID, on June 1, 2023.

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RCID, which has similar responsibilities as a county government, provides services such as fire protection, emergency medical services, trash collection, water, sewer, electricity, and road maintenance to about 25,000 acres of property in Orange and Osceola counties. Disney is the primary landowner.

“They do have services. Utilities. We’re going to take care of that,” DeSantis said before signing the bill on April 22. “Don’t worry. We have everything thought out.”

A DeSantis spokesperson later indicated the governor’s office was planning to release more details about the elimination of RCID.

“The plan for Reedy Creek will be shared in the next few weeks,” Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said in a statement shared on Twitter.

Nearly three months later, the governor’s office still has not released that plan.

“We have nothing further to add at this time,” another DeSantis spokesperson said Monday in response to questions from News 6 about the status of the plan. “When we do have more to share, we will make a formal announcement at that time.”

Representatives from RCID and Walt Disney World did not provide any comment for this story.

News 6 submitted a public records request for all written correspondence RCID personnel may have received from the governor’s office related to the dissolution of RCID, including any emails sent to RCID’s administrator.

“(The) Reedy Creek Improvement District has determined that no records exist for this request,” a RCID public records specialist responded.

State Representative Randy Fine, who sponsored a House bill to eliminate RCID, said he has not been briefed on how specific governmental services will be provided to the Disney property after RCID dissolves.

“I have not heard any plan from the governor’s office,” the Republican lawmaker told News 6.

Fine said the Florida legislature could take up additional measures related to RCID when lawmakers return to Tallahassee in March but was unaware of any specific proposals.

Citing Florida law, Fine said RCID’s services could be transferred to Orange and Osceola counties.

“If I was a local government, I’d be thinking about what I’d do,” said Fine.

This week, Orange County Commissioners will be discussing the county’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022-2023. Once approved, it will fund the county government through September 2023, four months after RCID is scheduled to be dissolved.

The proposed budget released by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings provides no additional funding for governmental services currently provided by RCID.

“We have checked to see if any correspondence has been received from the governor’s office or Reedy Creek,” an Orange County government spokesperson told News 6. “At this time, no information has been received.”

Besides questions about how RCID’s government services on Disney property will be replaced, there is also uncertainty about the district’s approximately $1 billion bond debt.

Orange County tax collector Scott Randolph has previously indicated that county taxpayers may have to absorb that debt when RCID dissolves.

A DeSantis spokesperson disputed that claim Monday, without providing further explanation.

“As always promised, the debts of the Reedy Creek Improvement District will not fall to the local residents,” said Deputy Press Secretary Bryan Griffin.

The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the law abolishing RCID weeks after Disney CEO Bob Chapek publicly denounced Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, known to critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.