October 8, 2019 – Washington Co., WI – On Wednesday the Washington County Executive Committee will meet to vote on a ‘Resolution Setting the Salary for the Washington County Executive.’
A draft of the resolution shows the proposed salary starting at $140,000 and then increasing annually to $142,800, $145,656 and in the fourth year $148,569.
A record check shows the prospective pay for the newly elected Washington County Executive would be more than any elected county executive in the state of Wisconsin.
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
One note, when supervisors voted Sept. 11, 2019 in favor of an elected county executive, the supervisors knowingly violated the terms of the contract signed with Washington County Administrator Josh Schoemann. A clause in his contract indicates the county will have to pay Schoemann $130,000 because of a violation of the original terms of agreement.
VIDEO | Washington Co. Supervisors vote a final time on elected County Executive
Members of the Washington County Executive Committee include: Supervisors Michael Bassill, John Bulawa, Kristine Deiss, Donald Kriefall, Mark McCune, Timothy Michalak and Jeffrey Schleif.
Several members of the Executive Committee were reached for comment with regard to the pay scale, benefits for the elected county executive and why the board couldn’t wait until Schoemann’s contract expired in 2022 and then avoid paying out $130,000 in taxpayer money.
Proposed salary for the Washington County Executive:
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.
Supervisor John Bulawa – “I believe the salary will probably be the highest; I know it’s very close to the top but we’re proposing $140,000. So, it’s actually less expensive than what we’re paying right now for Josh’s position.
Question: Annual increase: Bulawa – “I don’t know how they came up with the yearly increase, that is one of my questions. I don’t know if that’s the standard cost-of-living increase per year or how they came up with that number but yes it does step up significantly each year.”
Supervisor Kriss Deiss – “We discussed the salary at the last County Executive Committee meeting. The pay scale is in the ballpark. I know we have the information (salary is the highest in Wisconsin). I know the average is $131,000. I had thought around $130,000 would be better but it will be up to what goes before the County Board as they will have a say in it as well. We have to set the salary in a certain time frame so whoever takes out papers knows what the salary is going to be and I looked at what’s coming up Wednesday at County Board and I don’t know if this is on the County Board agenda or not. The majority of the Executive Committee seemed to be OK with the salary, but it’ll have to go before the full County Board to see what their opinion is.”
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.” Why does Washington County have to be the highest? “That’s a starting figure. From my recollection of the meeting the discussion was if you’re going to be able to attract a qualified candidate you want to have a salary commensurate with what you would expect to attract that kind of a person. Tim Michalak’s job is human resources and based on that recommendation we went with that figure. As you know, it’s a recommendation to the board and the board doesn’t always go on the recommendations of the Executive Committee. We did not take into consideration what the governor makes.
For more than a year Schoemann toured Washington County talking about the dire straits of the county budget and repeating “the county is falling off a financial cliff.” How can county supervisors justify violating the terms of Schoemann’s contract which means a loss of $130,000 in taxpayer money?
Supervisor Bassill – “I just believe this is the right avenue. I think our track record is we’ve been fiscally conservative and that’s why I’m so excited now; that’s why I’ve wanted this county executive for a long time. I want that person to be accountable to the taxpayers so if he’s going to be paid more money – absolutely, but that person will be accountable to the taxpayers.”
Why not wait until the contract expired: “Wait broke the bridge down,” said Bassill. “I’ve been on this for 10 years now. My entire premise is this person needs to be accountable to the taxpayers. But I just believe this is going to be a game changer for Washington County.”
Is this a good use of taxpayer money?: “Yes. I’ve been after to do this since the day I got on the Washington County Board. I think this will pay two-fold. I think this will pay for itself in a heartbeat.
Taxpayers in Washington County are already losing $130,000 in this deal. The first year, if the salary is approved, would be like paying $270,000: Bassill – “Correct. I just believe this is the right avenue. Are there going to be up-front costs, absolutely.
Supervisor Deiss – “I don’t know what the urgency was. I did vote in favor to proceed with an elected county executive. Taking the vote on the item Deiss said, “There wasn’t any urgency that I remember. I voted in favor of it because now is the right time.”
Questioned about the $130,000 contract violation fee. “We weren’t talking about dollars at that point,” said Deiss. “There was no mention of salary when this was brought up before County Board. The cart wasn’t exactly before the horse. You also need to look at what the highest paid position is in the county, you want to make sure whoever is elected is paid more than those people.” Mention the governor’s pay. “Everybody is going to have feelings on this, and I think it has to play out in front of the County Board and we have to hear from the public too.”
Supervisor Kriefall – “The position does include benefits but we’re only voting on the salary at this point. I don’t know what the benefits would be.”
The Executive Committee meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 9. The meeting will adjourn and go into closed session.
“The Executive Committee will move into closed session at the end of Wednesday’s meeting: “Closed Session Entertain a motion to convene in Closed Session pursuant to §19.85(1)(c), Wis. Stats., considering employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility; specifically, “to conduct the annual performance evaluation of the County Administrator.”
After the Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday the full County Board meeting will get underway at 6 p.m.
Both meetings are open to the public.
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