Bonds for proposed GPAC may not need taxpayer approval

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- One method that could be used to pay for a proposed performing arts center in downtown Greensboro doesn't include asking individual taxpayers' permission.

Certificates of Participation, or COPs, worked in Durham, and they're at least one concept the arts council task force is considering. Also known as low obligation bonds, COPs allow the city to take on debt and pay for that debt by selling stakes in lease payments from the future building.

It's different from a regular bond because it does not require voter approval, although it would require approval by City Council.

At least one city councilwoman won't be approving any COPs. District Five's Trudy Wade believes it's just a way to get around the voters, and she calls it wrong.

"This is not an essential need for the City of Greensboro. It's on the want list, not the need list," Wade said.

She continued by saying any city money is taxpayer money, and taxpayers should be allowed to get involved directly at the ballot box.

Walker Sanders, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, believes taxpayers are involved. That's through representative government via the City Council and representation by the 63-member task force. The task force has also held and will hold community forums where anyone can listen to the plans and ask questions.

He said it's not about getting around voter approval. Instead, it's about trying to find some other way to pay for the performing arts center than putting even more tax burden on the backs of city property owners.

He believes that's what a bond referendum would do, so he said other methods should be considered.

Those other methods include COPs but also using hotel taxes and parking deck money, which would, again, require city council approval but not individual voter approval.

The task force's final proposal is due to city council on June 19.