Greater Than The Sum

A Scan of Municipal Service Sharing Opportunities in Jefferson County

February 2020


In Wisconsin and across the nation, local governments are increasingly challenged by enhanced service demands and expectations produced by new technologies, aging populations, and economic growth. Yet, at the same time, many face service constraints resulting from stagnant state and federal aids, limits on local taxation, and human resources limitations.

Municipalities in Jefferson County are not immune from these challenges. In fact, municipal officials have expressed concern over the sufficiency of resources to hire new employees, the availability of workers, and the hindrance that geographic distance between communities creates in their ability to offer timely support to one another. These growing issues have generated interest among local governments in considering possibilities for enhanced collaboration in the provision of key municipal services.

In response, leaders from Jefferson County commissioned the Wisconsin Policy Forum to conduct a high-level scan of municipal services in the county. This report describes the results of our analysis, which is intended to convey to policymakers those service areas that hold the greatest potential for service sharing or consolidation.

We limit our analysis to the seven largest municipalities in Jefferson County by population – Watertown, Whitewater, Fort Atkinson, Jefferson, Lake Mills, Waterloo, and Johnson Creek – as well as Jefferson County services where relevant. This does not reflect a lack of interest on the part of the county or the Forum in considering service sharing opportunities that may involve the smaller municipalities, but simply reflects the broad nature of this initial foray into service sharing possibilities and our desire to maintain a manageable project scope.

Similarly, this analysis is limited to major municipal service areas that were determined in consultation with administrators from the seven municipalities and the county. Our omission of other service areas – including parks and recreation, municipal courts, solid waste, sewer utilities, and back office services (e.g. human resources, benefits administration, accounting, joint procurement and information technology) – does not mean that possibilities for enhanced service sharing do not exist for those areas. Rather, it reflects either limited interest in considering such service areas by the municipal administrators, or our view that pursuit of such possibilities likely could occur without the assistance of a third-party entity to provide both initial and detailed analysis. Continue reading…