The Disney Corporation ended its silence on Governor DeSantis’ decision, with the legislature, to dissolve the special district the state created for the entertainment giant more than 50 years ago. Disney’s lawyers let the Governor know that taxpayers in nearby districts would have to pick up the costs of public services that Disney pays for, but also its bond debt of more than $1 billion.

DeSantis wanted to punish Disney for criticizing his moronic “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But Florida taxpayers will have to pay the price of the governor’s vengeance.

The Miami Herald reports the message from Disney’s lawyers.

As Florida legislators were rushing through passage of a bill to repeal the special district that governs Walt Disney World last week, they failed to notice an obscure provision in state law that says the state could not do what legislators were doing — unless the district’s bond debt was paid off.

Disney, however, noticed and quietly sent a note to its investors to show that it was confident the Legislature’s attempt to dissolve the special taxing district operating the 39-square mile parcel it owned in two counties violated the “pledge” the state made when it enacted the district in 1967, and therefore was not legal.

The result, Disney told its investors, is that it would continue to go about business as usual.

The statement, posted on the website of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board on April 21 by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, is the only public statement Disney has supplied since lawmakers unleashed their fury over the company’s vocal opposition to the “Parental Rights in Education” law, also known as the “don’t say gay” bill.

The statement, first reported by WESH 2, quotes the statute which says, in part, that the “State of Florida pledges…it will not limit or alter the rights of the District…until all such bonds together with interest thereon…are fully met and discharged…”

In essence, the state had a contractual obligation not to interfere with the district until the bond debt is paid off, said Jake Schumer, a municipal attorney in the Maitland law firm of Shepard, Smith, Kohlmyer & Hand, in an article for Bloomberg Tax posted on Tuesday and cited in a Law and Crime article.

The law passed by the Republican Legislature on a largely party-line vote, and signed into law by the Republican governor, either violates the contract clause of the Florida Constitution, or is incomplete, Schumer told the Herald/Times on Tuesday. If the Legislature wants to dismantle the Reedy Creek Improvement District, it has more work to do….

Schumer noted that the bill dissolving Reedy Creek doesn’t say what should happen to its debts, but another state law requires that by default the county assumes a district’s debt along with all of its assets when it is dissolved. “This means that theoretically, Orange and Osceola counties will inherit upward of $1 billion in bond debt,’’ he wrote in the Bloomberg Tax article….

When the state established the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967 as an independent taxing district controlled by Walt Disney World, it gave it the power to build roads, sewers and utilities as well as the authority to set its zoning laws, establish its police and fire departments, and regulate its construction. The district can borrow money by issuing bonds to pay for services and that infrastructure and, while Disney must also pay property taxes to Orange and Osceola counties, the state also allows the Reedy Creek Improvement District to tax itself. The current tax rate is three times higher than the maximum amount allowed by cities and counties, Schumer said….

The Orange County tax collector said:

“Orange County gets Reedy Creek’s assets, debts and obligations,’’ he said. But the cost of providing its services is $105 million a year and the cost of its debt services is $58 million a year and so if Reedy Creek is dissolved those assets and liabilities would be absorbed by Orange County’s $600 million budget, he said.

Taxpayers in Orange County won’t be thanking DeSantis for their new tax bills.

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