Pete Simon, a Reedy Creek firefighter, had some thoughts about the recent decision by the DeSantis-appointed board that oversees the special district around Disney World to end what it called the “unethical benefits and perks” enjoyed by the 400 or so Reedy Creek Improvement District employees, including firefighters.
Simon, one of three firefighters who spoke out, said that when he took the job being able to visit the parks with his kids was among the top reasons he joined.
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“This allows me to bring my children to the parks, and eventually my grandchildren,” said Simon
“All we’ve seen and heard is cuts, cuts to budget, cuts to possible staffing, cuts to maintenance, and now cuts to benefits,” he said. “My only question is: What’s next?”
Members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which DeSantis created to take the place of the old Reedy Creek board, have accused their predecessors of using taxpayer funds to provide themselves and other district employees with $2.5 million in perks, mostly related to season passes and associated spending at Disney World. Per the current board, “The scheme included the RCID (Reedy Creek Improvement District) government paying for ‘discounts’ enjoyed by employees on all Disney purchases.”
In a complaint to the state inspector general, the current CFTOD board charges that the former Disney-appointed officials paid for park-related perks with Reedy Creek money.
The arrangement was allegedly self-serving for Disney because it funneled money back to the resort, with the district – and, by extension taxpayers – footing the bill. Per local NBC affiliate WESH2, Disney pays 86% of the taxes in the district.
“In addition to constituting unethical benefits and perks, the scheme raises significant questions regarding self-dealing as the board members were only permitted a maximum of $100 per month in compensation,” the statement continued.
But Simon insisted that, not only was he promised such benefits when he took the job, he was reassured that they would not go away when the new board took over.
“When the district changed hands last year, we were told that our jobs and our benefits were safe.”
He said he supported the new board because he felt “stonewalled” by the former leadership and, “we were told that they were going to make this place better. It was going to run it better. It was going to get us all the resources that we’ve been needing, because we were getting nowhere with the previous administration.”
But, as noted above, Simon stressed, “All we’ve seen are cuts.”
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