LEGAL STATUS; ORGANIZATION
Body corporate; status.
Each county in this state is a body corporate, authorized to sue and be sued, to acquire and hold, lease or rent real and personal estate for public uses or purposes, including lands acquired under ch. 75
, to sell, lease and convey the same, including the authority to enter into leases or contracts with the state for a period of years for the uses and purposes specified in s. 23.09 (2) (d)
, to make such contracts and to do such other acts as are necessary and proper to the exercise of the powers and privileges granted and the performance of the legal duties charged upon it.
History: 1987 a. 378
; 1995 a. 201
See ss. 75.35
for restrictions on the sale of tax deeded land.
Discussing civil rights actions against municipalities. Starstead v. City of Superior, 533 F. Supp. 1365
Powers, how exercised; quorum. 59.02(1)(1)
The powers of a county as a body corporate can only be exercised by the board, or in pursuance of a resolution adopted or ordinance enacted by the board.
Ordinances may be enacted and resolutions may be adopted by a majority vote of a quorum or by such larger vote as may be required by law. Ordinances shall commence as follows: “The county board of supervisors of the county of .... does ordain as follows".
A majority of the supervisors who are entitled to a seat on the board shall constitute a quorum. All questions shall be determined by a majority of the supervisors who are present unless otherwise provided.
History: 1977 c. 447
; 1995 a. 201
The county board's failure to use the prescribed language of sub. (2) did not invalidate an ordinance. Cross v. Soderbeck, 94 Wis. 2d 331
, 288 N.W.2d 779
A supervisor who is required to abstain is not “present" for calculating the number of votes required for passage. Ballenger v. Door County, 131 Wis. 2d 422
, 388 N.W.2d 624
(Ct. App. 1986).
Administrative home rule.
Every county may exercise any organizational or administrative power, subject only to the constitution and to any enactment of the legislature which is of statewide concern and which uniformly affects every county.
Consolidation of municipal services, home rule, metropolitan district. 59.03(2)(a)
Subject to s. 59.794 (2)
and except as elsewhere specifically provided in these statutes, the board of any county is vested with all powers of a local, legislative and administrative character, including without limitation because of enumeration, the subject matter of water, sewers, streets and highways, fire, police, and health, and to carry out these powers in districts which it may create for different purposes, or throughout the county, and for such purposes to levy county taxes, to issue bonds, assessment certificates and improvement bonds, or any other evidence of indebtedness. The powers hereby conferred may be exercised by the board in any municipality, or part thereof located in the county upon the request of any such municipality, evidenced by a resolution adopted by a majority vote of the members-elect of its governing body, designating the particular function, duty or act, and the terms, if any, upon which the powers shall be exercised by the board or by a similar resolution adopted by direct legislation in the municipality in the manner provided in s. 9.20
. The resolution shall further provide whether the authority or function is to be exercised exclusively by the county or jointly by the county and the municipality, and shall also find that the exercise of such power by the county would be in the public interest. Upon the receipt of the resolution, the board may, by a resolution adopted by a majority vote of its membership, elect to assume the exercise of the function, upon the terms and conditions set forth in the resolution presented by the municipality.
The board of any county may, by a resolution adopted by a majority of its membership, propose to any of the municipalities located in the county that it offers to exercise such powers and functions therein in order to consolidate municipal services and functions in the county. Such resolution shall designate the particular function, duty or act and the terms and conditions, if any, upon which the board will perform the function, duty or act. The powers conferred in par. (a)
and designated in such resolution may thereafter be exercised by the board in each municipality which accepts the proposal by the adoption of a resolution by a majority vote of the members-elect of its governing body or by direct legislation in the manner provided in s. 9.20
Whenever the request under par. (a)
or acceptance under par. (b)
of a municipality is by resolution of its governing board, the request or acceptance shall not go into effect until the expiration of 60 days from the adoption of the resolution or, in the case of county law enforcement services provided to a city as described in s. 62.13 (2s)
, as provided in s. 62.13 (2s) (d)
. If a petition under s. 9.20
for direct legislation on the request or acceptance is filed before the expiration of said 60 days, the resolution of the governing board is of no effect but the request or acceptance of such municipality shall be determined by direct legislation, except that no petition for direct legislation under s. 9.20
may be filed to approve or reject a contract entered into by a city and a county under s. 62.13 (2s)
After and upon the adoption of resolutions by the board and subject to par. (c)
by one or more municipalities either as provided in par. (a)
the board shall have full power to legislate upon and administer the entire subject matter committed to it, and among other things, to determine, where not otherwise provided by law, the manner of exercising the power thus assumed.
The municipality concerned may enter into necessary contracts with the county, and appropriate money to pay to the county the reasonable expenses incurred by it in rendering the services assumed. Such expenses may be certified, returned and paid as are other county charges, and in the case of services performed under a proposal for the consolidation thereof initiated by the board and made available to each municipality in the county on the same terms, the expenses thereof shall be certified, returned and paid as county charges; but in the event that every municipality in the county accepts the proposal of the board, the expenses thereof shall be paid by county taxes to be levied and collected as are other taxes for county purposes. The municipalities are vested with all necessary power to do the things herein required, and to do all things and to exercise or relinquish any of the powers herein provided or contemplated. The procedure provided in this subsection for the request or acceptance of the exercise of the powers conferred on the board in cities and villages is hereby prescribed as a special method of determining the local affairs and government of such cities and villages under article XI, section 3
, of the constitution.
The powers conferred by this subsection shall be in addition to all other grants of power and shall be limited only by express language.
Sub. (2) provides a unique procedure that may be used in specific fact situations to levy a property tax for a county service, but it is not the only authorization for a county to levy such a tax. Town of Grant v. Portage County, 2017 WI App 69
, 378 Wis. 2d 289
, 903 N.W.2d 152
County home rule under sub. (1) allows every county to “exercise any organizational or administrative power, subject only to the constitution and to any enactment of the legislature.” The language of s. 60.565 authorizing towns to provide ambulance service acknowledges that another person can provide the ambulance service instead of a town and withdraws the mandate when another person provides ambulance services. The absence of a command from the legislature that towns provide an ambulance service in all situations causes the argument that county home rule prevents counties from providing ambulance service to miss the mark. Town of Grant v. Portage County, 2017 WI App 69
, 378 Wis. 2d 289
, 903 N.W.2d 152
In a county that does not have a county executive or administrator, the personnel committee of the county board does not possess the statutory authority to remove the county social services director. The county board may not, under s. 59.025 [now sub. (1)], transfer the authority to appoint. 81 Atty. Gen. 145
Construction of powers.
To give counties the largest measure of self-government under the administrative home rule authority granted to counties in s. 59.03 (1)
, this chapter shall be liberally construed in favor of the rights, powers and privileges of counties to exercise any organizational or administrative power.
History: 1985 a. 29
; 1995 a. 201
; Stats. 1995 s. 59.04.
County seat; change. 59.05(1)(1)
The county seat shall be fixed and designated by the board at the first regular meeting after the organization of any county; and no county seat shall be changed except as provided in this section.
If a petition conforming to the requirements of s. 8.40
is filed with the board by at least two-fifths of the legal voters of any county, to be determined by the registration list for the last previous general election held in the county at the time of filing, the names of which voters shall appear on the registration list for such election, asking for a change of the county seat to some other place designated in the petition, the board shall submit the question of removal of the county seat to a vote of the qualified voters of the county. The board shall file the question as provided in s. 8.37
. The election shall be held only on the day of the general election, notice of the election shall be given and the election shall be conducted as in the case of the election of officers on that day, and the votes shall be canvassed, certified and returned in the same manner as other votes at that election. The question to be submitted shall be “Shall the county seat of .... county be removed to ....?".
If a majority of the votes cast at the election are in favor of the proposed change, the chairperson of the board shall certify the same, with the attestation of the county clerk, to the governor, who shall issue a proclamation to that effect and publish it in the official state paper. From the date of publication the place designated shall be the county seat. The board may not again submit the question of removal within 5 years.
Notwithstanding subs. (2)
, no election to change a county seat may be held for a period of 5 years after the year in which a courthouse or other county building costing $3,000 or more was built at the county seat and occupied for county purposes.
When 40 percent of registered voters were denied ballots in an election to remove a county seat, the election was set aside even though the outcome probably was not affected. McNally v. Tollander, 100 Wis. 2d 490
, 302 N.W.2d 440
County property. 59.06(1)(1)
County property shall be held by the clerk in the name of the county. All property, real or personal, conveyed to the county or to its inhabitants or to any person for the use of the county or its inhabitants is county property. Such conveyances have the same effect as if made directly to the county by name.
Effect of transfer.
All deeds, contracts and agreements made on behalf of the county under the directions of the board under s. 59.52 (6)
, or by a county executive acting under s. 59.17 (2) (b) 3.
, when signed and acknowledged by the clerk and the county seal is attached, are valid and binding on the county to the extent of the terms of the instrument and the right, title and interest which the county has in the property.
History: 1995 a. 201
; Stats. 1995 s. 59.06; 2013 a. 14
See ss. 75.35
for restrictions on the sale of tax deeded land.
Claims against counties; actions on. 59.07(1)(1)
No action may be brought or maintained against a county upon a claim or upon a cause of action unless the claimant complies with s. 893.80
. This subsection does not apply to actions commenced under s. 19.37
No action may be brought or maintained against a county, for disclosure of information that is received under s. 30.572 (4)
and maintained under s. 30.572 (5)
Consolidation of counties; procedure; referendum. 59.08(1)(1)
Any 2 or more adjoining counties may consolidate into a single county by complying with the requirements and procedure herein specified.
The boards of any 2 or more adjoining counties desiring to consolidate their respective counties into a single county may enter into a joint agreement for the consolidation of the counties, setting forth in the consolidation agreement all of the following:
The names of the several counties which they propose to be consolidated.
The name under which it is proposed to consolidate the counties, which name shall be such as to distinguish it from the name of any other county in Wisconsin, other than the consolidating counties.
The property, real and personal, belonging to each county, and the current fair market value thereof.
The indebtedness, bonded and otherwise, of each county.
The proposed name and location of the county seat of the consolidated county.
If the counties have different forms of county organization and government, the proposed form of county organization and government of the consolidated county.
The board of each county may appoint an advisory committee composed of 3 persons to assist the board in the preparation of the agreement.
The original of the consolidation agreement, together with a petition on behalf of the several boards, signed by the chairperson of each of the boards, asking that a referendum on the question of consolidation of the several counties be ordered, shall be filed with the clerk of the circuit court of one of the counties and a copy of the consolidation agreement and of the petition shall be filed with the clerk of the circuit court of each of the other counties.
The qualified electors of each county involved in the consolidation proposal whose board has not taken the initiative under sub. (2)
may, by filing with the board a petition conforming to the requirements of s. 8.40
, signed by not less than 20 percent of the qualified electors of the county, based on the total vote cast for governor at the last general election, asking the board to effect a consolidation agreement with the county or counties named in the petition, and asking for a referendum on the question, require the board to so proceed. A copy of the petition of the electors shall also be filed with the clerk of the circuit court of the county. If the board is able within 6 months thereafter to effect the consolidation agreement, the procedure shall be the same as set forth in this section. If the board within that period of time is unable or for any reason fails to perfect the consolidation agreement, then the judge of the circuit court of the county shall appoint a committee of 5 representative citizens of the county, to act for and in lieu of the board in perfecting the consolidation agreement and in petitioning for a referendum.
The board shall publish the consolidation agreement as a class 1 notice under ch. 985
. The owner-editor or manager of each newspaper publishing the notice shall issue a certificate of the publication to the judge of the circuit court for each affected county, which shall be proof of publication.
When publication of the consolidation agreement in each of the counties included in the agreement is completed, the judges of the circuit courts of those counties shall, by order entered of record in each of the counties, require the clerks of each of the counties to submit the question of the consolidation of the counties to a vote of the qualified electors of the counties.
The question of the consolidation of the counties shall be submitted to the voters at the next election to be held on the first Tuesday in April, or the next regular election, or at a special election to be held on the day fixed in the order issued under par. (a)
, which day shall be the same in each of the counties proposing to consolidate. A copy of the order shall be filed with the county clerk of each of the counties as provided in s. 8.37
. If the question of consolidation is submitted at a special election, it shall be held not less than 70 days nor more than 88 days from the completion of the consolidation agreement, but not within 60 days of any spring or general election.
The clerk shall notice such election as other elections. The ballots shall be provided by the clerk and shall be in substantially the following form:
OFFICIAL REFERENDUM BALLOT
If you desire to vote for the consolidation of .... (insert names of counties proposing to consolidate) counties under a consolidation agreement, make a cross (X) in the square after the word “Yes", underneath the question; if you desire to vote against consolidation, make a cross (X) in the square after the word “No", underneath the question.
Shall .... (here insert names of counties proposing to consolidate) counties consolidate under a consolidation agreement?
YES ⍽ NO ⍽
The ballot shall have on the back or reverse side the endorsements provided by law for ballots for general elections and shall be marked by the elector and counted and canvassed as other ballots cast on questions in the county are counted and canvassed. The election shall be conducted by the same officers and in the same manner as are other elections in the county. The results of the election shall be certified to the judges of the circuit courts for the counties.
If a majority of the votes cast in each county upon the question of consolidation are in favor of the consolidation of the counties, the judge of the circuit court shall enter that fact of record in each county. If in any one of the counties less than a majority of the votes cast upon the question of consolidation are in favor of the proposed consolidation, the consolidation shall be declared to have failed for all purposes. If a majority of the votes cast upon the question of consolidation in any county are opposed to consolidation, the question of consolidation shall not be again submitted to the electors of that county for a period of 2 years.
At the next succeeding regular November election, held at least 60 days after the election at which consolidation is approved by the voters, there shall be elected for the consolidated county all county officers provided for by law and the officers shall be nominated as provided in ch. 6
. Their terms shall begin on the first Monday of January next succeeding their election, at which time they shall replace all elective county officers of the counties that are consolidated into the consolidated county whose terms shall on that day terminate. All appointive county officers shall be appointed by the person, board or authority upon whom the power to appoint such officers in other counties is conferred. The terms of the officers shall commence on the first Monday of January next succeeding the first election of officers for the consolidated county, and shall continue, unless otherwise removed, until their successors have been appointed and qualified. The successors of all officers whose first election or appointment is provided for in this subsection shall thereafter be elected or appointed at the time, in the manner and for the terms provided by law.
Upon the first Monday of January following the first election of county officers for the consolidated county, the several counties shall thereafter for all purposes be treated and considered as one county, under the name and upon the terms and conditions set forth in the consolidation agreement. All rights, privileges, and franchises of each of the several counties, and all records, books, and documents, and all property, real and personal, and all debts due on whatever account, as well as other things in action, belonging to each of the counties, shall be considered transferred to and vested in the consolidated county, without further act or deed. All property, all rights-of-way, and all and every other interest shall be as effectually the property of the consolidated county as they were of the several counties before the consolidation. The title to real estate, either by deed or otherwise, under the laws of this state vested in any of the counties, shall not be considered to revert or be in any way impaired by reason of this consolidation. The rights of creditors and all liens upon the property of any of the counties shall be preserved unimpaired, and the respective counties shall be considered to continue in existence to preserve the same and all debts, liabilities and duties of any of the counties shall attach to the consolidated county and be enforced against it to the same extent as if the debts, liabilities and duties had been incurred or contracted by it, unless by the terms of the agreement the outstanding bonded indebtedness of the counties shall not be transferred and attached to the consolidated county, but shall remain as obligations of the counties which for such purpose shall be considered to continue in existence.
Suits may be brought and maintained against the consolidated county in any of the courts of this state in the same manner as against any other county. Any action or proceeding pending by or against any of the counties consolidated may be prosecuted to judgment as if the consolidation had not taken place, or the consolidated county may be substituted in its place. The towns, school districts, election districts and voting places in the consolidated county shall continue as in the several counties before consolidation, unless and until changed in accordance with law.
Until changed by law, the same circuit courts shall continue, though it may result in the consolidated county being a part of 2 or more circuits. All such courts shall, however, be held at the place designated as the county seat of the consolidated county, and each such court and the judge of that court shall continue to have and exercise the same jurisdiction as the court or the judge had and exercised before the consolidation. If 2 or more judges have jurisdiction in any consolidated county they or a majority of them shall exercise the power to appoint officers and fill vacancies as is vested in judges of circuit courts of other counties.
For the purpose of representation in congress and in the legislature the existing congressional, senatorial and assembly districts shall continue until changed in accordance with law. The consolidated county shall in all respects, except as otherwise provided in this section, be subject to all the obligations and liabilities imposed, and shall possess all the rights, powers and privileges vested by law in other counties.
The provisions of this section shall be considered cumulative and the authority granted in this section to counties shall not be limited or made inoperative by any existing statute.
COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Boards: composition; election; terms; compensation; compatibility.
The boards of the several counties shall be composed of representatives from within the county who are elected and compensated as provided in this section. Each board shall act under sub. (2)
, unless the board enacts an ordinance, by a majority vote of the entire membership, to act under sub. (1)
. If a board enacts such ordinance, a certified copy shall be filed with the secretary of state.
59.10(1)(a)(a) Number of supervisors and apportionment of supervisory districts.
In each county with a population of at least 750,000, sub. (2) (a)
applies. In counties with a population of less than 750,000 and more than one town, sub. (3) (a)
applies. In counties with one town only, sub. (5)
The term of office of supervisors is 2 years. A board may determine whether the terms shall be concurrent or staggered. Supervisors shall be elected at the election to be held on the first Tuesday in April next preceding the expiration of their respective terms and shall take office on the 3rd Tuesday in April following their election. If the board determines that supervisors shall serve staggered terms, the board shall, by ordinance, provide for a division of supervisors into 2 classes, one class to be elected for one-half of a full term and the other class for a full term and thereafter the supervisors shall be elected for a full term. The board shall publish the ordinance as a class 1 notice, under ch. 985
, or as a notice, as described under s. 59.14 (1m) (b)
, before publication of the notice of the election at which supervisors are to be elected.
The method of compensation for supervisors shall be determined by the board.
A board may determine the procedure for filling a vacancy.
In each county with a population of at least 750,000:
Composition; supervisory districts.
Within 60 days after the population count by census block, established in the decennial federal census of population, and maps showing the location and numbering of census blocks become available in printed form from the federal government or are published for distribution by an agency of this state, but no later than July 1 following the year of each decennial census, the board shall adopt and transmit to the governing body of each city and village wholly or partially contained within the county a tentative county supervisory district plan to be considered by the cities and villages when dividing into wards. The tentative plan shall specify the number of supervisors to be elected and shall divide the county into a number of districts equal to the number of supervisors, with each district substantially equal in population and consisting of contiguous whole wards or municipalities, except as authorized in sub. (3) (b) 2.
Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, the board shall develop and adopt the tentative plan in accordance with sub. (3) (b) 1.
The tentative plan shall not include provision for division of any census block, as utilized by the U.S. bureau of the census in the most recent federal decennial census, unless the block is bisected by a municipal boundary or unless a division is required to enable creation of supervisory districts that are substantially equal in population. The board shall adopt a final plan by enacting an ordinance in accordance with sub. (3) (b) 2.
Changes to the final plan shall be governed by par. (d)
and sub. (3) (c)
For an election that is held before 2016, supervisors shall be elected for 4-year terms at the election to be held on the first Tuesday in April next preceding the expiration of their respective terms, and shall take office on the 3rd Monday in April following their election. For an election that is held in 2016 and thereafter, supervisors shall be elected for 2-year terms at the election to be held on the first Tuesday in April next preceding the expiration of their respective terms, and shall take office on the 3rd Monday in April following their election.
Each supervisor shall be paid by the county an annual salary set by the board. The board may provide additional compensation for the chairperson, such that his or her salary may be an amount of up to 150 percent of the salary of a supervisor, and for the chairperson of the board's finance committee, such that his or her salary may be an amount of up to 125 percent of the salary of a supervisor. Beginning with the term that commences in April 2016, the total dollar value of the annual salary and benefits that may be paid to a supervisor, other than the board chairperson and finance committee chairperson, may not exceed the annual per capita income of Milwaukee County as most recently determined by the U.S. bureau of the census and may be increased for a new term as provided in subds. 2.
, subject to the limit specified in subd. 4.
applies to this paragraph.
The board may increase the salary specified in subd. 1.
, or as otherwise adjusted under this paragraph, by an amount that does not exceed the percentage increase in the U.S. consumer price index for all urban consumers, U.S. city average, for the period between the time that a supervisor's salary was last set under subd. 1.
or by the board, and the year before the year in which the salary increase is to take effect.
The board may increase the salary specified in subd. 1.
, or as otherwise adjusted under this paragraph, by an amount that exceeds the percentage increase in the U.S. consumer price index for all urban consumers, U.S. city average, for the period between the time that a supervisor's salary was last set under subd. 1.
or by the board, and the year before the year in which the salary increase is to take effect, except that such an increase may not take effect unless it is ratified by a majority vote of the electors in the county voting in a referendum on the proposed salary increase.