Boots & Sabers

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1950, 23 Jul 17

Counties Considering Consolidating

Here’s an interesting idea.

County governments in Wisconsin are financially unsustainable and must reinvent themselves to survive, even if that means erasing borders and merging with the county next door, Washington County leaders say in a letter to four of their neighbors.

The County Board’s Executive Committee and County Administrator Joshua Schoemann have invited their counterparts in Ozaukee, Fond du Lac, Dodge and Waukesha counties to discuss everything from sharing services, consolidating departments and even redrawing maps to unite as one.

Any talks would build on existing partnerships. Washington and Ozaukee counties merged their health departments last year and already saved taxpayers $300,000. Waukesha County shares its medical examiner with Washington County.

State law allows consolidation of two or more counties and Washington County’s leaders are willing to consider going down that road in order to resolve fiscal problems caused by declining revenue and increasing expenses, Schoemann said.

It makes a lot of sense to combine many of the departments and functions to reduce costs and increase service. I’m a bit more hesitant about merging the governance. Having a massive county dilutes representation. But that may also increase visibility and accountability. There are certainly numerous examples of much larger counties in this country.

I look forward to the discussion!


1950, 23 July 2017


  1. Kevin Scheunemann

    As long as it means keeping the basket case of Milwaukee County out of equation… this is fine.

    I would not want to have a lot of those Milwaukee County Board members deciding anything for Washington County.   They have an incurable disease of bad liberalism.

  2. Le Roi du Nord

    I’d be all for eliminating the township level of government and have the county handle all that responsibility.  Many southern states are organized in that way.

    Could you compare a “bad liberal” to a bad conservative?

  3. billphoto

    Back on topic.  I would be leery of their true goal.  i have dealt with Mr. Schoemann in the past.  Knowing Mr. Schoemann as I do, I would expect any “deal” would be negotiated to his benefit not taxpayers.

  4. steveegg

    I don’t know how well the people of Waukesha County would react to having the other three counties’ 0.5% sales tax applied to them.

    As for the “dilution” in representation, a reduction-in-elected-force (I can’t dignify the boards by using the RIF acronym) would definitely be an improvement.  Is there any real reason why Dodge County has 33 supervisors, Washington and Ozaukee Counties 26 supervisors each, and Waukesha and Dodge Counties 25 each?

  5. Mark Hoefert

    Would be interesting to combine Washington & Ozaukee counties into one county again, considering that Ozaukee County was split off from Washington County due to local disputes over where the County seat should be – West Bend versus Port Washington.  Kind of like the issues that have faced West Bend School District – two high schools or one high school.

    No matter what, while sharing services is a worthwhile concept to explore, I would caution against creating “too large to fail” (or “too large to succeed”) entities.  Milwaukee County is 957,000 population.  Adding up the populations of the 5 counties listed above is over 800,000.


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