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Battle between Disney, Orange Co. property appraiser continues with new lawsuit

Rick Singh has contended that Disney’s appraisals were historically too low

One thing that is not magic to Walt Disney World is the property taxes it must pay Orange County.

Disney is once again suing the Orange County property appraiser over 2019 tax assessments for its theme parks, resorts, employee buildings and other structures. The company has filed similar lawsuits in past years.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Property Appraiser Rick Singh says the Disney complex has been undervalued for years. Disney says it is challenging errors in the assessments.

According to the Disney lawsuits, Singh listed the assessed value for the Magic Kingdom — the world’s busiest theme park — at $504 million. Epcot’s value was set at about $539 million.

Hollywood Studios was assessed at nearly $394 million while Animal Kingdom came in at about $435 million.

Disney World has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and plans a phased reopening starting July 11.

Singh has argued since he first entered office that the county has historically undervalued the county’s theme parks and the theme park companies’ other properties around Orange County, and that his intention was to fix that so that the county’s other taxpayers would know the theme park companies were paying their shares.

The park companies have sued before, and have also filed challenges through administrative channels. Singh has won those prior disputes.

Singh also has been the focus of lawsuits from whistleblower former employees alleging a variety of both criminal and ethical violations in his office ranging from allegations of records destruction to sexual harassment. He has denied those claims. Earlier this year Orlando media reported that he is the focus of a criminal investigation from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, though the department has not confirmed such a probe.

His more immediate concerns are the August 18 Democratic primary election for his seat, in which his reelection bid is being challenged Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando and businessman Khalid Muneer. Both are expected to press the ethical and criminal allegations and Singh’s hostile relationships with the county’s largest employers.

Meanwhile, Singh tested positive for COVID-19 last week and is recovering.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

The Florida Politics staff contributed to this report.

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