August 21, 2019 – Washington Co., WI – The Washington County Land Use and Planning Committee will meet Thursday, Aug. 22 at 7:30 a.m. and one of the agenda items includes making a recommendation to the full County Board on the special charge tax assessment for the Private On-Site Wastewater Treatment System Maintenance Program.
The basic premise of the special tax would be to assess at $11 per parcel annually properties served by POWTS or $11 per system, whichever is greater based on the above cost estimate. Approximately 20,209 parcels (99.5%) would be assessed an $11 fee ($11 x 20,209= $222,299).
During a public hearing July 25, 2019 more than 50 people spoke against the special assessment and county officials read 46 pages of letters that also were against the proposal.
County Administrator Joshua Schoemann said he is going to make a recommendation at the August 22 meeting.
“At that meeting I will recommend to that committee to vote ‘No’ on implementing the POWTS fee,” he said.
During the Sept. 11 County Board meeting, Schoemann said he will again recommend the County Board vote ‘No’ on the POWTS fee.
“We’ve recognized the situation and the outcry and citizens clearly have no interest in doing the fee or the tax; call it what you want it’s a tax. So I had a budget workshop and I don’t think this board has the votes,” he said.
On the other hand, if the board does have the votes to pass the fee Schoemann said come October the County Board would have to pass the budget with the POWTS fee and that needs 18 votes. “I don’t think there’s 18 votes on the County Board to pass the budget with the fee in it,” he said. “So the board is properly responding to the constituents, I’m trying to be responsive to the constituents; they don’t want the fee and we’re not going to implement the fee.”
Trend in Washington County government
While Schoemann said he will recommend a ‘No’ vote there has been a trend in county government lately to bring an issue back to the full County Board for a second vote, even if the item was initially defeated.
“That has happened about five times in the last 15 months,” said Schoemann.
One of the most recent instances was the county board’s vote against an elected executive director. While the item failed on a 13-13 vote, a couple of supervisors have revived the issue and put it back on the table.
Schoemann said it is up to the full County Board to make a decision on the special assessment POWTS fee, however one of the factors playing into the issue is timing.
“If the fee passes we need time to put it on tax bills,” he said. “If it’s voted down in September then October is the last chance they can do it and if it doesn’t come back in October then it can’t come back at all.
“I don’t expect it to come back… especially if I’m recommending they vote no; but I can’t imagine someone would bring it back,” Schoemann said.
After the July public hearing the county was scheduled to have an informational meeting about the POWTS proposal, however that meeting was cancelled.
Schoemann indicated an informational meeting has now been scheduled, but it will be after the Land Use and Planning Committee meeting August 22.
Please be advised that the County has rescheduled the Fiscal Health Informational Meeting for Tuesday, August 27 at 6 p.m. at the Washington County Fair Park Pavilion Exhibit Hall. An update regarding the status of the proposed POWTS Special Assessment will be provided in addition to a discussion about the County’s fiscal health and budget.
“I want people to know what’s going on with the county fiscally,” said Schoemann.
In the past Schoemann has detailed how Washington County is “falling off a financial cliff.”
“That’s how the POWTS fee came up in the first place because there is a financial cliff. We’ve been directed not to raise taxes at all so fees or cuts is what we’re doing. I’m going to recommend the POWTS fee not be passed.”