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0945, 22 Jul 22

Washington County Headed to Referendum to Pay for “Safety”

Call me skeptical. From the Washington County Insider:

July 21, 2022 – Washington Co., WI – The Washington County Joint Safety Committee approved a proposed $3.6 million public safety referendum to increase the budget for the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.
If the referendum is approved the $3.6 million would continue in perpetuity meaning it would be a regular tax every year moving forward.


A couple of bullet points from the Wednesday, July 20, 2022, Public Safety Committee meeting. The full draft of the Washington County Anti-Crime Plan is also below.

  • The referendum would cover an additional 30.5 full-time positions; there would be an increase in staffing with Sheriff’s Department patrol or mental health. There were several requests for additional data for specifics and supervisors were told that information is forthcoming.

  • County Executive Josh Schoemann said, “The county board could fund it (the $3.6 million) if they so choose.”

  • “Bottom line is, if the county board chose to fund all these positions on their own, they have the ability to do that. My concern is it’s such a big increase, relatively speaking, I think the people of Washington County should make that choice. If they don’t want to increase their tax rate, increase the levy, then we don’t,” said Schoemann.

  • “There’s enough property tax levity and flexibility, because we have not been taking the full amount of levy for years. The three times in the last eight years that we’ve cut the levy, the state allows you to go back and take some of that, if you so choose,” Schoemann said.

  • “There’s major crimes back to the 1990s and in the 80s. I think it’s just the frequency is happening much more, and I think this is at the top of people’s mind right now. And as I mentioned, the sheriff’s office crime in particular is the highest concern of the county board and the community,” said Schoemann.

  • Sheriff Martin Schulteis said, “There is minimum staffing to properly serve Washington County. We haven’t kept up with the county itself.”

  • Schulteis said some changes would include eliminating some administrative positions and “really focus on boots on the ground serving citizens of Washington County.”

  • The Sheriff and county administration were not prepared with data on out-of-county bookings, crimes committed outside area. More data was promised at a later date, however the committee had to vote on the proposed referendum during its meeting July 20, 2022 as it was an action item on the agenda.

  • In past government scenarios there is a study conducted or committee formed to discuss major issues, similar to how Washington County approached the issues surrounding the Samaritan Home. There was no study or committee formed to review the Washington County Anti-Crime Plan.  Schoemann said he met with Schulteis and they discussed the issue.  The meeting July 20, 2022 was the first time it was brought before county supervisors.

  • The decision to put the referendum on the November 8, 2022, ballot must be made by the county board at its August 10, 2022, meeting as the deadline to place it on the ballot is August 15, 2022, according to Schoemann.

Thanks to inflation, tax collections are at all time highs while personal real income is dropping. Is it really necessary to permanently increase taxes now?

Here’s the thing… budgets are about priorities. If we start from the position that almost all governments are adequately, if not over, funded, then it takes an extraordinary situation to justify increasing funding even more. But here we are with the supposedly “conservative” Washington County Board casting unanimous votes to proceed with a referendum to raise taxes. Are you telling me that there isn’t any superfluous spending in the budget that couldn’t be reallocated to public safety? None? Are they taking advantage of the increasing crime and public worry about it to raise taxes?

I’ll remind the reader that the county implemented a “temporary” sales tax that has since become permanent. The bite of inflation makes that sales tax hurt even more – and pushes more money into county coffers. Local governments are awash in money. They do not have a funding problem.

Let’s hope the large board comes to its senses and does not put this on the ballot. If they do, let’s hope the voters have more sense than their supervisors and vote it down.


0945, 22 July 2022


  1. penquin

    If we start from the position that almost all governments are adequately, if not over, funded

    Looking around at the potholes in the streets, the lack of basic infrastructure in many rural areas, contaminated drinking water across the state, schools having to hold bake sales in order to purchase basic teaching supplies, as well as the rising crime problem that was mentioned and many-many other issues all across Wisconsin, I ain’t sure if that is a true&proper position to start from.

  2. Jason

    Only Penny would count pot holes to prove that governments are broke. Always good for a chuckle. Hey chip in some more of your money, the local governments will put it to the same good use they are with the money they extort from us all.

  3. dad29

    lack of basic infrastructure in many rural areas

    “Basic” infrastructure = electricity, telephone service, roads and bridges. Luxury infrastructure = 5G internet and air-conditioned town offices. Every town I’ve been in in the State of Wisconsin has roads and (where needed) bridges. Some even have stop signs and grocery stores! Every resident who wants one has a phone and electric service. Propane tanks abound.

    schools having to hold bake sales in order to purchase basic teaching supplies,

    Basic teaching supplies = Textbooks. All the rest is happycrap.

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