County supervisors should also remember that they do not operate in a vacuum. The citizens who pay those taxes are facing a hard time financially. President Biden’s inflation economy is making prices rise faster than they have in 40 years. Unfortunately, most people’s incomes are not keeping up, so real income is dropping like a rock. Fuel prices are robbing people of mobility and everything is just getting more expensive. Families are cutting back on unnecessary expenses.
Meanwhile, times are good in government. After several years of money raining out of Washington from the Trump and Biden administrations to attempt to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic, local governments have been awash in spending cash. Now they are reaping the benefits of inflation because taxes are based on percentages. As the median home price in southeast Wisconsin has risen 48% since January of 2020, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association, property taxes have risen accordingly.
So, too, has the sales tax. Washington County passed a county sales tax years ago that was sold as a temporary emergency need. They have since made the tax permanent and continue to spend the proceeds. As the prices of goods and services have risen with inflation, so has the money spent on sales taxes. Washington County will likely see a record year in sales tax collections in 2022. Where will that money go? Could it be used to fund a spending increase in the Sheriff’s Department instead of asking the taxpayers to send even more money to the county?
Nobody questions that fighting crime is important and that Washington County deserves a properly funded Sheriff’s Department to meet the needs of the day. But using the current heightened concern about crime to call for a tax increase during a time when inflation is rampant and the economy is slipping into recession borders on the kind of cynicism we expect in Milwaukee – not Washington County.
The Washington County Board should decline to ask the taxpayers for more money and fund the increase in spending for the Sheriff’s Department if it is truly needed. The county has enough of our tax dollars to deliver on their obligations.
This stinks. Per the story earlier today from the Washington County Insider, the Washington County Board voted on the salary for the newly created County Executive position. The original proposal had the pay starting at $140,000 with annual increases taking it up to $148,569 in four years. For some perspective, here are some salaries for other County Executives:
Dane County – $134,218
Milwaukee County – $129,000
Waukesha County – $108,826
Fond du Lac County – $108,100
Winnebago County – $115,800
Brown County – $98,046
The Governor of Wisconsin – $146,786
Well, they had the vote and the Washington County Insider was all over it. After several failed votes to lower the pay, they ended up passing a resolution with a compensation of $140,000 for all four years. So the pay is still outrageously high compared to other county executives, but there isn’t a structured pay increase.
This is a fiscally irresponsible and outrageously arrogant decision by the County Board. They have been complaining about the county’s finances for years. They claim that they can’t give up the sales tax revenue. They need to implement fees to enter the county parks. This very day, they narrowly defeated another fee for POWTS, but only after sustained public outrage. And yet they have this kind of cash to throw at a County Executive? Ridiculous.
Go read the comments from Supervisors in the story at the Washington County Insider. In particular, I’ll call out my County Supervisor:
Supervisor Mike Bassill – “The pay is going to be higher than the other county executives in Wisconsin; including Milwaukee. We came to the conclusion that their contracts – when they get up for election theirs will be going up. We’re still going to be saving around $35,000 than what we’re currently paying the county administrator presently, with the $140,000. I wasn’t 100-percent on board but after reflecting on the Executive Committee meetings I think it’s the right scale. Correct, it will be more than what the governor makes in four years. That’s what we decided.
Bull, Mike. A County Executive role is not comparable to a County Administrator role. They have different requirements and different duties. The taxpayers are going to be overpaying for a County Executive and you voted for it. Shame on you.
And County Board Chairman:
Supervisor Don Kriefall – “Right now as I understand it the salaries range from around $108,000 to $139,000 from looking at… a lot of the county executive salaries were set. I’m thinking the most recent one was set in the early 1990s. All those were set also a long time ago and have not been adjusted for inflation.”
Again. Bull. Even with those salaries set in the 1990s (allegedly), the other counties don’t seem to have a problem attracting good candidates. There’s no reason to overpay for the position.
Behind all of this is that the current County Administrator, Josh Schoemann, has declared that he is running for the office. Many of the county board members like him – after all, they voted to hire him in the first place – and support him. This has all of the stench that they set the pay so high to keep Schoemann whole if he wins the job. In doing so, they might have killed his chance to win it. If another credible candidate gets in the race, they will beat Schoemann like a rented mule with this issue… and win.
June 30, 2019 – Washington Co., WI – It was June 12, 2019 when the Washington County Board voted 13-13 on a resolution to change the form of government to an elected county executive, rather than an appointed county administrator. A tie vote resulted in failure of the motion.
Two short weeks later, the issue is being brought back for review.
On Friday, June 28 Supervisors Chris Jenkins, Russ Brandt and William Symicek requested a county executive resolution be placed on the July 10 county board meeting for reconsideration.
Members of the Executive Committee voted during their Tuesday meeting to approve the expansion of a deck and patio area at the Washington County Golf Course. Supervisors Rick Gundrum and Mark McCune voted against the measure.
Another supervisor, Michael Bassill, supported the proposal, but only to allow his colleagues to weigh in when it appears before the full County Board in a few weeks.
“Basically, what we charged parks (staff) and the golf course with is, ‘Find a way to make yourself fiscally independent of the tax levy,’” County Administrator Joshua Schoemann said. “That is exactly what Craig (Czerniejewski) and Jamie (Ludovic) and their team have worked on over the last several months.”
“One of the only times I will have a bloody mary is after a golf game,” he said. “I can’t — because of some ridiculous rule that says I cannot have a bloody mary because I am at a county golf course. Treat me like an adult. It is not going to keep me playing golf there … By having a deck there, I don’t think we are committing this horrendous thing that is going to lead to some ridiculous amount of outings.”
So the County Board is debating how to pay for some capital improvements to the club house and how the golf course can operate without using tax dollars.
WHY THE HELL DOES THE COUNTY OWN A GOLF COURSE!?!?
In a county that has several golf courses – a couple of them that are world class – why do we need the taxpayers to run one? Sell the dang thing and then we don’t need 26 (yes, 26!) county supervisors debating whether or not they should be able to have a bloody mary after a game of golf at the county course.
If Washington County would actually cut some spending like this, it would be easy to eliminate the county sales tax.
I know… I’m shocked too.
The new proposal would have eliminated the per diem allotment and instead offered a $550 per month salary. When the proposal reached the Executive Committee, Supervisor Mark McCune made a motion to reduce it to $500 per month, and also applied the reduction to the county board chairman’s salary.
“My concerns with this ordinance is if and individual spends a lot of time on different committees, and you are asked by the county chair and leadership to serve on those committees, that you be rewarded for the extra time you put in,” Supervisor Michael Miller said. “It is like having a company and you have an employee working 60 hours aweek and an employee working 40 hours a week. You would want to compensate the employee for working the 60 hours.
Supervisor Marilyn Merten agreed when she referenced supervisors who are members of multiple committees and allocate additional hours to studying the issues and attend the meetings.
“When you are putting in additional time, you
should be recognized for that and compensated for it,” she said. “I have no problem with the compensation reduction and showing a good faith effort that we too are reducing things, but I think the per diem is something to make a fairness out of what committee assignments people have.”
The opponents framed the issue as a fiscal one.
“We just created a committee in the consent agenda that’s geared toward moving off of county tax levy, the History Center, AIS (Agricultural Industrial Society), the EDWC (Economic Development Washington County) and the Visitors Bureau,” Supervisor Christopher Bossert said. “Last month we voted to implement park stickers. All of that is for fiscal reasons so we should be looking at our own pay, our own practices and sharing in that pain.”
Supervisor Timothy Michalak agreed.
“As an individual who has been on salary for years, you put in the time and you just get the work done,” he said.
It’s not a ton of money, but it sure is symbolic.
Good. While I wouldn’t expect to see a flood of people attending meetings, this certainly makes it more likely that working people can attend if they so choose.
For the second instance in 12 months, Washington County officials will modify the meeting time for County Board meetings from the morning to the evening with the hope increasing public participation.
Supervisors voted during their June 13 meeting to change the meeting time for the County Board of Supervisors meetings from 7:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month to 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month. Supporters claim it would not only allow additional residents to attend the meetings, but also increase the applicant pool for elected office.
“The way I look at it is that we should afford our constituents every opportunity we can,” Supervisor Denis Kelling who spearheaded the effort to move the meeting time. “I mean I may not be a religious person, but I have the freedom to practice my religion. I may not own a gun but I have the freedom to carry a gun.”
Kelling spoke to address issues opponents mentioned, including that meeting times do not drive attendance and potential overlap with municipal gatherings.
“Selfishly I am going to vote against this,” Supervisor Jeffrey Schleif said because the time conflicts with another obligation. “As for being available for people, I think if the issue is something that is important for people, we do public notices, people come if they need to come so I discount the 6 p.m. a little bit.”
Once again, the Washington County Board extends the sales tax that was supposed to be temporary, thus confirming the maxim that “there is no such thing as a temporary tax.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, members of the Executive Committee voted to approve a resolution that extends the 0.5 percent sales tax for qualified items. The resolution was amended such that it would be reviewed every five years. The original allowed the tax to continue indefinitely unless there was a concern.
“It is pretty important,” Administrator Joshua Schoemann said. “It is a significant portion. Well over 10 percent of our total operating budget comes from the sales tax. In addition to that, the sales tax precludes us from having to borrow specifically for road improvements.”
According to the accompanying committee report, a sales tax was adopted in 1998 by County Board supervisors and implemented in 1999. Nearly all products are included in the resolution, but there are exceptions, such as food.
“At that time, it was primarily about Fair Park,” Schoemann said. “When they developed Fair Park, that is the revenue source they used to pay off the debt.”
Yes, it is very convenient for Washington County Government to have more money. How nice for them /sarcasm.
The newspaper soft sells it, but for those who don’t know the history… the county had a few major and “urgent” capital projects for which they did not have the money. To address this, they enacted the county’s first sales tax. The tax was supposed to be implemented until those specific projects were paid off, and then sunset. Instead of doing that, when those projects were done, the County Board just decided to keep the tax going and use the money to pay for whatever they want.
Never. Ever. EVER trust a politician who tells you that a tax will just be a temporary measure to cover emergency expenditures.
During this week’s Washington County Board meeting Dist. 3 County Supervisor Christopher Bossert put forward an amendment that would move county board meetings to the evening. The amendment was just two votes short, but closer than the board has ever been towards moving their meetings to the evening.
Holding the meetings during the day limits both the public’s ability to attend meetings and the ability of many working people to become supervisors.