Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...


Everything but tech support.

0706, 20 Sep 17

Washington County Says “Hell, No”

This is a bit fascinating to watch. A little background…

In 1998, Washington County passed a temporary sales tax (I think you know where this is going). There were some major capital projects like at the county jail, courthouse, and UWWC, that the county needed done, but they didn’t have the money. So they bamboozled the public into accepting a “temporary” 0.5% sales tax to pay for those projects. By 2006, those capital projects were all done and paid for, but the County Board decided that they liked their new tax. Instead of killing off the tax as promised, they kept it going and redirected it to other things. Now the county sales tax is just another tax that the County Board uses to spend on whatever it wants.

Fast forward to 2017 and several of the county’s municipalities want a slice of that tax. The argument is simple. All residents of the county pay the sales tax so it makes sense to distribute that tax to several levels of government. The City of West Bend already sent a letter to the city earlier this year. Slinger voted to do the same last night. Other cities and villages are considering doing the same.

Last night, the Washington County Board didn’t just say “no.” They said, “hell, no.

“Based on what you are saying, I think we need to be very clear that — not necessarily that we are denying anything, but that we are declining even considering it,” County Administrator Joshua Schoemann said to committee members.

Well, that’s pretty clear. It is a dangerous business to try to get between a politician and a tax.

On the issue itself, I agree with the county, but only because I have a forlorn hope that the county might someday end the sales tax as they promised when they implemented it. That likelihood, however remote, becomes even more remote if other governments get their hands in that pie.



0706, 20 September 2017


  1. steveegg

    Allow me to break out my narrator voice – “Washington County never ended their sales tax.”

  2. billphoto

    The Washington County Board can say “temporary” all they want but that is a lie.  Washington County has a contract with Cabelas that loan money is to be repaid with sales tax dollars.  No sales tax and County taxpayers are on the hook for the balance of the loan.  Everybody knows this they just don’t say anything.

  3. Owen

    Don’t burst my bubble so quickly, Steve ;)

  4. steveegg

    Sorry, but it’s just the cynic in me (or is it the pessimist?).  They’re not going to give up $11 million/year (more in future years), especially when half of it is going to capital projects and another $1 million/year is going to “economic development”.

    As for the Cabela’s situation, which is a bit more than a third of that “economic development”, Washington County refinanced that loan into a lower-interest general-obligation bond in 2012, when it still owed $3.3 million.  That removed the requirement that the Cabela’s sales tax revenue (along with some cash from Cabela’s because said sales tax revenue never hit budget) be used to pay back the loan, though in practice sales tax revenue from all sales in the county is being used to pay the refi bond (in 2021, 2 years earlier than the loan would have been paid off).

  5. Kevin Scheunemann

    the Village of Kewaskum passed same resolution as West Bend last night.

    The County Board should repeal the sales tax if they are going to refuse to share it with municipalities for road repair.   Municipal constituents are demanding roads be fixed.  Municipal leaders in Washington County led the way to adopt the Sheboygan model of sharing the county sales tax with municipalities for road repair, if County Board insists on keeping this tax.    The status quo of the County administrator does not sit well with this municipal leader.

    Either County constituents need to see this never ending tax to go to something useful for all, or they need to see it repealed.  Very disapponted with County Board.

  6. billphoto

    I was on the Board in 2012 and did not see any refinance or change of terms for the Cabelas contract.  If this happened after I left the Board, great.  Then there is no reason for the sales tax to not be terminated.

  7. billphoto

    Checked.  The Cabelas contract specifically states the funding method for repayment of the loan is the sales tax generated by the Richfield location.  If a minimum level is not met, Cabelas Sydney Neb. will issue payment for the difference.  If there is a new contract, I have not seen it.  The underlying bond was refinanced in 2009 along with others. Not disclosed by Baird, the County Finance Director or the County Administrator is none of the refinanced bonds are callable.  If Bass Pro Shops decides to close Richfield, Washington County will get paid off but this bond and others will still be the taxpayers responsibility for years to come.

    The County tax rate is (last I checked) 28% higher than Ozaukee and 25% higher than Waukesha (which has not sales tax).  Washington County’s accounting is a fraud perpetrated on the taxpayers.  There are two sets of books, over budgeting and some very questionable “arrangements.”  I could write a book.

  8. billphoto

    How generous.

Pin It on Pinterest