For decades Walt Disney World and the state of Florida had a very happy working relationship. This was in large part due to the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special district set up specifically to manage Walt Disney World. However, Disney World and Governor Ron DeSantis are now engaged in a massive legal battle, and the new special district board. Installed by him, is making some big changes that will impact everybody.
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the new name for Reedy Creek that changed when the state passed a law giving Ron DeSantis control over appointing board members, recently made a big change to its employee benefits package when it removed Walt Disney World annual passes, a perk the previously board paid for, but the new board apparently feels is inappropriate. The decision was greatly frowned upon by many Reedy Creek employees, including the firefighters and first responders that had previously been supportive of the change. Now, however, the CFTOD is planning to reduce its spending on road pavement by more than $3 million, which could make for a bumpy trip to Disney World for everybody.
Disney World Vs. Ron DeSantis
While Disney World’s special district status did give the theme park more freedom than your average resort to control what it could do with its property, that freedom came with a number of additional responsibilities as well. The district has its own fire department and is responsible for maintaining its own roads. It pays for all this by taxing its residents, which is Disney World.
The 2024 CFTOD budget still includes $13 million in the Planning & Engineering/Roadways budget, but the decrease is apparently specifically due to a plan to spend less on paving. Considering the millions of rental cars, Minnie Vans, Disney buses, and construction equipment that use those roads every day, it’s not hard to imagine that Disney World’s roads are going to be under a bit of added stress, and potholes and other issues may begin to develop if less is being spent on maintaining them. This is likely to go over with vacationers about as well as Governor DeSantis' previous suggestion that tolls should be added to Disney World's roads
The need to cut the CFTOD is likely directly related to the ongoing legal battle between the board and Disney World. Over $5 million in new spending has been allocated in the budget specifically for the legal battle, money that Disney World will ultimately be paying since that’s where the district gets all its revenue. The CFTOD has sued Disney World to invalidate a land deal Disney World made with the previous board. Disney World recently countersued, arguing that since the current special district is legally the same as the previous one, it is required to abide by the deal.