Arcadia Grille on election night was a cluster of familiar Canton politicians ― Healy, West, Schulman, among others.
Tucked back in the corner with several supporters, Eric Resnick awaited vote results.
Resnick, who won a Canton City School Board Member-at-Large spot, checked the figures on a laptop computer perched atop a cooler and wrote each new set in marker on a large sketch pad for everyone to see.
Resnick is the first openly gay person to hold public office in Stark County. And he said although his win is a significant moment for the school district, he doesn’t believe his sexuality was even on Canton voters’ minds.
“My being gay was never an issue in this campaign,” he said.
He said the idea that people didn’t care about sexuality really showed the significance of the win.
“I think it means that the Canton City School District is at a place where it does judge someone by the content of their character and what they bring to the table,” he said.
But this isn’t his main focus.
Resnick, a Timken High School graduate and former Canton City Schools teacher, made his idea to raise taxes the cornerstone of his campaign, a message “a lot of political types” said was difficult to promote.
Interestingly, his election to office came on a day when county-wide, voters repealed a sales tax.<
Photo | Amadeus Smith
He wasn’t worried, though. In talking with kids and parents around the district, a part of the campaign he enjoyed most, Resnick said he discovered that a majority of people didn’t mind a tax increase if it meant more financial security for the district.
“The community doesn’t get enough credit,” he said. “They rose to the occasion in two ways. They stood up for schools and dismissed cynical politics.”
And now it’s Resnick’s turn to stand up for schools. He said a proposal for a tax increase is already in the works and that he hopes to have something on the ballot by May.
The money from a tax increase would go to the district’s general fund, which has been bolstered by federal stimulus money. Resnick said stimulus money could go away at any point and that money from a levy would make the budget more stable.
Currently, Canton City Schools is in fiscal caution, a designation made by the state. An economic step in the wrong direction would lead to a fiscal watch or fiscal emergency.
Resnick said the district previously had to get out of the financial turmoil linked to these designations with schools closings such as the Souers Middle School closing. A tax increase would allow the district to avoid closings.
The proposal may not include the typical property tax increase, however. Resnick said that he is exploring other routes ― such as sales tax and income tax.
Richard Milligan, Canton Board of Education member and chair of the district’s finance committee, said now isn’t the right time for any type of tax increase.
“We cannot expect our residents in the district to pay more in taxes because of the current economic situation,” Milligan said.
Instead, Milligan said he thinks the board should focus on “doing better with the money we have.”
“The public expects us, just as they have to do, to do better with less,” he said.
“Doing better” involves things such as reductions in personnel and administration, which, Milligan said, the board has done every year he has been there.
If the board does find that there is a need for a tax increase, Milligan said, Resnick has the right idea in that the district has to communicate to the public why the increase is needed.<