Officials contemplate merging Washington County into Ozaukee County

Posted at 5:56 PM, Jul 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-31 19:23:51-04

WEST BEND -- The Washington County Administrator painted a grim picture of their future.

An analysis shows in five years, they could be facing a $5 to $11 million deficit.

"It would end up being just under a third of our total property tax budget which is huge," said Joshua Schoemann, Washington County Administrator.

This has leaders like Schoemann thinking out of the box. This includes dissolving county lines and completely merging with Ozaukee County.

The grim outlook is why he has come up with possibly merging with Ozaukee County.

"I know that if we go down this path, that guys like me don't have a job but I'm good with that," said Schoemann.

We spoke to a couple who have spent most of their 46 years together in Washington County to get their thoughts.

"We'll they gotta do something if you can't make your expenses," said Vernon Rauch.

"I don't see where you're gaining anything by getting yourself tied up with another situation. Take care of our own problems. You're just absorbing their problems then!" said Jean Rauch.

The Interim Ozaukee County Administrator did not seem phased by the idea at all.

"To combine counties that would certainly generate some headlines..." said Jason Dzwinel, Interim Ozaukee County Administrator.

Washington County has already saved $300,000 by merging their health department with Ozaukee. They have also saved about $100,000 in taxpayer money merging with the Waukesha County Medical Examiner.

"We're all in this together," said Dzwinel.

The Washington County Administrator sent a letter to four of its neighboring counties, letting them know about their fiscal health status.

Ozaukee's Board Chair plans to bring up that letter and possible options for the future at Thursday's board meeting.

"I think consolidations are going to happen all over the place," said Lee Schlenvogt, Ozaukee County Board Chair.

There are three other options the Washington County Administrator offers:

  • Creating a wheel tax, or property tax increases. He thinks neither would happen.
  • Borrow money, something the Washington County Administrator tells TODAY'S TMJ4 would also not be so popular.