City Council member William J. Burckley criticized Jefferson-Pilot Corp. during a live cable broadcast Thursday for what he said is the company's opposition to $25.67 million in Greensboro Coliseum bonds.
Burckley cited Thomas Fee, a Jefferson-Pilot executive and treasurer of a committee running radio ads urging people to vote against the bond issue because it would cause property taxes to rise.Fee has said neither the insurance company nor chairman W. Roger Soles, who opposes coliseum bonds, has given money to the Committee to Save Property Taxes. He has declined to identify members of the committee.
``This company Mr. Fee works for has had its hand in the city's pockets for many, many years,' Burckley said during the first City Council meeting broadcast live on Cablevision of Greensboro.
``I think the citizens of Greensboro need to know full well that this particular company is not a net taxpayer, it is a net tax taker.'
Jefferson-Pilot paid $203,799 in city property taxes during 1989-90, city records show. The city pays Jefferson-Pilot about $495,000 annually in employee insurance premiums, based on the October payment of $41,287.85.
``He's entitled to his opinions,' Fee said when told of Burckley's comments. ``Offhand, it just sounds like someone who's unhappy.'
Asked if Burckley was accurate to characterize Jefferson-Pilot as a ``net tax taker,' Fee said: ``I'd have to check on something like that. I'd have no idea, really.'
Burckley said passage of the bond issue, which would raise taxes on the average homeowner about $30 a year, would cost Jefferson-Pilot only about $10,000 more per year.
He said the company has benefited from downtown street improvements, from financing for its Greensborough Court at Hamburger Square apartment development, and from the city's December 1987 rezoning of the company's 14-acre Battleground Avenue tract from office to commercial use.
Soles declined to respond to Burckley's criticism.
``Mr. Burckley doesn't bother me at all,' he said. ``He has his opinion, and I have mine.'
Soles is a member of the Greensboro Development Corp., a private group of chief executives of Greensboro's largest employers. Largely at Soles' urging, the group voted by a 2-to-1 margin in August not to support coliseum bonds, although some individual members do support them.
Burckley, a fervent supporter of the bonds, has been sniping at Soles and other senior members of the group for what he calls a ``failure of leadership' in not supporting the coliseum bonds.