What is the Walt Disney World property worth? Well, in what seems like an annual happening, Disney is suing Property Appraiser, Rick Singh, arguing the 2019 property tax appraisals for 2019 are too high.
According to Orlando Sentinel, Disney filed a dozen lawsuits this week in Orange Circuit Court over the tax assessments for its theme parks, resorts, employee buildings and other structures on its sprawling property.
For years, Disney and Singh have clashed on the property assessments, and dozens of courts cases are still pending after Disney has sued Singh every spring dating back to 2016. Walt Disney World Resort “had been undervalued for decades by previous property appraisers,” said Singh spokeswoman Beth Watson in a statement Friday.
“Again this year, the Disney organization has chosen use the court system to dispute the value of its property in Orange County and thereby pay reduced property taxes that would benefit area infrastructure and public schools,” Watson said. “The Orange County Property Appraiser looks forward to defending these values in court on behalf of the citizens of Orange County, so that Disney’s responsibility to the community is upheld.”
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In response, Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said in a statement, “As we have shared before and as a matter of public record, we have challenged the property appraiser’s assessments and we will continue to dispute the errors by the property appraiser as any property owner in Orange County would do.”
In the latest round of litigation, Disney said Singh listed the assessed value for the Magic Kingdom — the world’s busiest theme park — at $504 million. Epcot, reportedly about twice the footprint of the Magic Kingdom, was set at nearly $539 million. Hollywood Studios, which has recently opened the $1 billion Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge last year, was assessed at nearly $394 million while Animal Kingdom, home of the Pandora expansion, came in at about $435 million, according to Disney’s lawsuit.
Disney’s property tax bill for Epcot alone was about $7.2 million, if it paid by Nov. 30, 2019, according to documents Disney provided with the lawsuit. Disney said it had the paid the 2019 taxes already. Disney didn’t say what it thought the theme parks’s assessed value should be set at but called Singh’s numbers “excessive,” according to the court documents.
The lawsuits criticized Singh for “not following professionally accepted appraisal practices” without providing specifics. “The assessments do not represent the just value of the Subject Property as of the lien date because they exceed the market value,” court documents also said.
Watson defended Singh’s practices. “Under the leadership of Rick Singh, the Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office is fair and equitable to everyone, and the team of appraisers and analysts who determine the values use professionally accepted appraisal practices with impeccable accuracy,” she said in a statement.
Last week the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort also sued Singh and Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph over the hotel’s $271 million assessment value, according to another lawsuit filed last week.
Over the years, one Disney lawsuit took the rare step of heading to trial. In July 2018, Disney won the civil trial as it contested the Disney Yacht & Beach Club Resort’s 2015 assessment. Singh has appealed the judge’s decision that the resort’s value should be cut in half to $189 million. Online court records show the case is still pending. One court filing alone was 2,000 pages long.
Re-elected twice since 2012, Singh is running for his third term for his powerful position. He also is awaiting the results of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation over accusations against him of misconduct in office.