Walt Disney World is once again contesting its property tax assessments in court.

The resort filed multiple lawsuits against Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh on June 14 — adding to the more than 40 complaints Disney has pending against Singh dating back to December 2018 — challenging his assessments of the property values of its theme parks and several on-site hotels, including the Grand Floridian and Animal Kingdom Lodge, the latest chapter in a tense relationship between the Mouse and Singh.  

“The increases in the assessments of our property have been unreasonable and unjustified since 2015,” said Disney vice president of communications Jacquee Wahler in a statement to The Orlando Sentinel. “Until the values are corrected, we will continue to dispute the errors by the property appraiser as any property owner in Orange County would do.”

Singh’s office defended its assessments, with spokesperson Beth Watson arguing the pieces of Disney property named in the lawsuits have been “undervalued for decades.”

Disney and other theme parks have won victories against Singh in the past. This past December, Singh’s office admitted it made a mistake in its original appraisal of a solar farm being built at Disney World. In a December 2017 settlement with SeaWorld Orlando, Singh set the park’s assessed value at $171 million for 2015 and 2016 — $24 million less than his original appraisal.

Sloth, rhino encounters added to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Guests at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay can now book reservations for two new animal tours.

The new rhino encounter will be a 45-minute experience, the park said, with guests getting a chance to touch one of the park’s white rhinos and feed Jody, an endangered black rhino, along with learning about the animals’ habitats and efforts to protect their wild counterparts.  

The other new experience will revolve around sloths. The 30-minute tour “provides guests the opportunity to see where the resident sloths like to hang out as they learn about their unique diets by helping to feed one of the world-famous sloths,” Busch Gardens said.

Reservations will start at $59.99 per person.

Disney Springs hotels extend special rates for first responders

The hotels along Hotel Plaza Boulevard near Disney Springs are continuing their discounted rates for police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMT), paramedics, 911 dispatchers, doctors and nurses.

The reduced prices will be available through Sept. 3, just days after the Aug. 29 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with nightly rates beginning at:

  • B Resort & Spa: $89
  • Best Western Lake Buena Vista: $80
  • DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando: $129
  • Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace: $119
  • Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista: $99
  • Holiday Inn Orlando – Disney Springs Area: $95
  • Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista: $75

While the Disney Springs hotels are not Disney-owned and don’t offer the resort’s Magical Express service to and from Orlando International Airport, guests do get two other major perks enjoyed by those staying at on-site Disney World hotels: access to Extra Magic Hours at Disney World parks and the ability to book FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance.

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