Steve A. Stone
Some truths about Disney and taxes
By Steve A. Stone
April 24, 2022

Dear Friends and Patriots,

I’m certain you’ve all seen, heard, and read things about the Disney-DeSantis flap. It’s evident who’s winning that tug-of-war at present. Last week the Florida state legislature rescinded the Reedy Creek Improvement Act of 1967, removing Disney’s special status as a self-governing entity. In recent days Disney’s stock price has plummeted. We can speculate as to whether that phenomenon is the result of the loss of Disney’s special legal status or the events and turmoil that immediately preceded. Perhaps it’s a combination. Perhaps, it’s the culmination of years of controversial moves by Disney and its investors and customers have finally had their fill.

The Reedy Creek District encompasses over 39 square miles and includes the municipalities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista. The 2000 census listed 23 actual residents in Bay Lake and 16 in Lake Buena Vista. All are adult Disney employees. The two communities are made up almost entirely of hotels, restaurants and shops. The residents documented by the census comprise the entirety of the district’s permanent population, but since only 5 of them own any property in the district, 34 of those people cannot vote for members of the governing Board of Supervisors. District by-laws only allow property owners that privilege. The only property within the district not owned by the Disney Corporation is held the 5 members of the Board, who each hold the title to 5 unimproved acres within the district. The board supposedly determines its own membership, and if the majority votes for a change in membership the new member is “awarded” the title to the 5 acres held by the member being replaced. Permanent residency and land ownership has always been minimized to ensure no power struggles ever emerged over any Disney company policy.

The Reedy Creek District is almost completely self-governing. Most services provided by any other Florida county, including fire protection, potable water, waste water management, road maintenance, etc. are provided by the district. The district maintains an 800 person security force that can only issue citations to Disney employees, not tourists or any other “visitor.” Non-employee criminal activity is dealt with by law enforcement services purchased from the Florida Highway Patrol and the counties of Osceola and Orange. Up until last week the District had the authority to issue municipal bonds to finance infrastructure projects, just as any county in the state.

The arrangement cemented by the Reedy Creek Improvement Act of 1967 appeared to serve Florida well for over 50 years, but the relationship has seen its share of strain. The first sign came almost 30 years ago, when the park hosted its first Gay Day. It was an unannounced day when the park hosted a large gathering of gay and lesbian organizations. Regular visitors were reported to be stressed by the experience of being “surrounded” by thousands who were obviously projecting their sexuality. Complaints rolled in to Disney’s offices. Ever since that first Gay Day at Disney World the park publicized such events so other park customers could not say they were unaware. The annual Gay Day became a lightning rod for protests by fundamentalist religious groups, who also protested the obvious changes in Disney once the corporation’s film operations began to produce adult-themed movies.

As the years have gone by Disney’s corporate philosophy has moved steadily away from its origins, established by founders Walt and Roy O. Disney. Walt died in 1966; Roy in 1971. Roy E. Disney, the son of Roy O. kept the company on track for about a decade, but eventually power struggles on the board of directors would cause him to retire as CEO. Ever since then the Disney Corporation has been a hotbed of corporate intrigues and strife. It also seemed to drift “leftward” in its social and political presentations. Gay Day was just a beginning. Today it’s safe to say Disney has cast off any pretense it ever had of being a mainstay of “The American Way.” Today it’s equally safe to say Disney is among the many giant corporations that are in the forefront of the mad dash toward transitioning the world via The Great Reset.

Disney and Governor Ron DeSantis have had an interesting relationship. Their greatest conflicts, up to more recent days, involved the company’s COVID policies. DeSantis has been a national leader in combatting COVID, mostly by fighting the Biden administration on masking policy, mandates, and on treatment protocols. More recent state actions have including the removal of all masking requirements in public. Disney seems to have taken an opposite approach and wanted to stringently apply the Biden administration’s COVID policy guidelines, including firing all employees who weren’t “fully” vaccinated. The conflict was obvious, though the outcome was in question until last week, when the Florida legislature had its say and upheld Governor DeSantis’ positions.

The final straw from the DeSantis administration’s viewpoint could have been recently revealed company information that indicates a shift in the way Disney would portray characters in its theme parks and future video products. Several announcements were made that Disney would introduce obviously gay and transgender character actors in its parks and would do the same in future animated features. The announcements appear to have forced conversations in Tallahassee regarding the state’s role in promoting controversial sex and gender issues to children. The entire state government could have remained silent, but Florida is by-and-large a very conservative state. With Disney apparently wanting to play a leading role in what many consider a major cultural conflict, DeSantis and the Florida legislature obviously decided to go on record with their own positions.

The mainstream media has been playing this latest chapter of the long saga of Disney in Florida as a fight between an oppressive government and a commercial company, though it’s interesting to note how the story line has evolved. The main question posed by the media centers on taxes. If you examine it, the stories are all hokum and bunk. National Public Radio ran a short examination of the rescission law and declared property taxes in Orange County, just to the north of Disney’s property, would go up by as much as 20%. Disney has approximately $1B in debt currently and the story line is all the debt would be assumed by Orange and Osceola Counties, and would result in significantly large property tax increases.

Who is right about that? Ask yourself a question. Ask, “How is that debt paid down now?” The answer lies in another power granted to the District – it levied its own taxes. Of course, with only 5 property owners in the District, and those properties comprising only 25 unimproved acres, you know it’s not them who pay the taxes. You know it’s ultimately the tourists who do. It always has been. Last year Disney paid over $700M in state and local taxes. The local taxes were split between the District and the two counties that provide the few services the District doesn’t. The taxes also paid for $58M in debt service. When the prevailing media narrative wails about property taxes going up everyone should worry. It could mean a whole lot of people are about to be robbed.

The tax narrative is just ignorant. Fools may buy into it, but there’s not a shred of truth to it. Instead of worrying about the rescission of The Reedy Creek Improvement Act’s effect on their property taxes, every single property owner in the nation needs to be concerned about the way inflation will cause those taxes to rocket up. I know how that works. I just received my annual county property appraisal. My house value decreased by 1.5%, but my land appraisal went up by 16%. That means my property tax bill is going up by at least 14.5%. Any place in the country where the real-estate market is at least stable is seeing inflationary effects in property valuations. That means higher taxes. If Orange and Osceola Counties in Florida do raise property assessments it won’t be because of the rescission of Reedy Creek’s special status. No, it won’t. The media might want people to believe it, but the truth is – any tax increase experienced will be almost a direct result of the terrible fiscal and financial policies emanating from Washington.

Believe it.

In Liberty,


© Steve A. Stone


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Steve A. Stone

Steve A. Stone is and always will be a Texan, though he's lived outside that great state for all but 3 years since 1970, remembering it as it was, not as it is. He currently resides in Lower Alabama with a large herd of furry dependents, who all appear to be registered Democrats. Steve retired from the U.S. Coast Guard reserves in 2011, after serving over 22 years in uniform over the span of four decades. His service included duty on two U.S. Navy attack submarines, and one Navy and two U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Units. He is now retired after working as a senior civil servant for the U.S. Navy for over 31 years. Steve is a member of the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee and Common Sense Campaign, South Alabama's largest Tea Party. He is also a member of SUBVETS, Inc., and a life member of both the NRA and the Submarine League. In 2018, Steve created 671 Press LLC as his own marquee to publish his books under—he does it his way.


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