Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree wants to be reelected as County Commissioner. He thinks he’s doing a pretty good job but realizes some folks disagree. He sat down with Betty Smith to answer some tough questions.
A lot of people think term limits are the way to go, so why should people elect Crabtree for another term? He says that when he was first running for office, he was told that two terms would be a long time for a county commissioner. But now he says his success in office speaks for itself. “We must be doing something right.” Crabtree says that during his time in office the county has made tremendous strides towards financial stability.
He says a county has to have money on hand if it hopes to grow. “If you want to go after money that’s available to make things happen in the community. It’s what makes economic development. We’ve pursued it continuously. I have two fellow commissioners that have the same frame of mind. The same conservative attitude towards keeping Scioto County fiscally sound.
He admits some departments might not be too happy with the tight purse strings but denies that anyone has been less than fully funded. “All of the offices are continually funded, including the Sheriff. As a matter of fact, we gave him an extra $872,000 in 2019.”
Crabtree said some of the complaints about the budgeting process come from the fact that they make the budget at the beginning of the year and estimate how much revenue will be coming in and when it will arrive. “It’s like having a job, you don’t get 52 paychecks in January.” He said that as the revenue comes in, it can then be distributed to departments. Since the county is determined to stay in the black, departments won’t get funds until the money actually arrives. “Everyone gets fully funded by the end of the year. We get complaints from the Sheriff, but most people understand.”
Crabtree said balancing the budget has been challenging since the County lost $2 million dollars a year in sales tax money generated by a state tax on Medicare managed care organizations. The tax was only charged on Medicare organizations which were later reimbursed by Medicare. The federal government decided that a state couldn’t charge the additional sales tax on Medicare organization unless it placed the same sales tax on private HMOs. He did say that sales tax on Internet purchases is helping to replace some of that money, but not all.
He also addressed criticism of new security measures at the Scioto County Courthouse. Including a chain-link fence that many consider unsightly. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people might not like it, but it’s here to stay.” He says the county has no choice but to implement the heightened security which is mandated by the state. In fact, they’re actually behind the times in getting security in place because, for years, they didn’t have the money. He says he liked it a lot better when it was easy to drive right up and come into the courthouse. But times have changed. “It’s one of those things that we have to do. I apologize for that. I don’t understand why people get to that point in life where they want to shoot people up or God help us, where they have drug problems.”
Crabtree also says that there may be the talk of conflicts between the commissioners and Portsmouth City Government, but for the most part, they work well together. “I think right now, we’ve been working very well with the City. We don’t ever want to go back to where we were.”
He added that voters could count on him and his fellow commissioners to take good care of their tax dollars. “We’re doing everything we can with whatever resources we can get. The reality is you don’t have money by spending money. You have money by saving money.”
If you ask Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree what he’s most proud of about the 15 years he’s spent on the Scioto County Commission, he can answer you quickly and decisively: it’s digging the county out of fiscal emergency.
Scioto County was placed into fiscal emergency by the state back in 2009. At that point, it was close to $800,000 in the red. But it managed to tighten its belt and get back in the black by 2014. An achievement that merited special recognition and a plaque presented by the state auditor.
Crabtree says it’s important for a county to keep money in its coffers if it wants to be eligible for Federal and State grant money. Most grants require matching funds. “What you have in a fiscal emergency is a courthouse that leaks, you have plaster falling down the stairwells. No grant opportunities. There’s not much you can do.”
Among the first budget-cutting steps was switching the insurance for county employees from Anthem to the CEBCO self-funded insurance plan which saved $650,000 during the first year. Over time, he says that the switch has saved the county close to $4 million. By getting out of fiscal emergency, the county was also able to refinance a bond issue it still owed on and save over $1 million.
“We went from several million in the red to several million in the black,” Crabtree said. The county was also in a financial position to be able to renovate parts of the courthouse and move adult probation services from an expensive rental property across the street.”
He says his fellow commissioners Bryan Davis and Cathy Coleman also are careful to keep a close eye on the budget “We’ve been successful in keeping the county sound financially. We’ve been conservative. To some degree, not all offices may like exactly what we’re doing, but it sure beats what was here back in the day.”
You may watch Crabtree’s entire interview with Betty Smith here.