WESTMINSTER — Alexander Jones, director of Carroll County's Department of Social Services, presented the commissioners with the results of last quarter's evaluation conducted by the state Department of Human Resources.
"Since about 1968, the state has been struggling with how to evaluate local social services departments," said Jones. "What we are seeing now is probably the best that they have done as far as giving quantifiable results."
From the results, Jones summarized Carroll's evaluation in the areas of income maintenance, social services, child support enforcementand administration and management as excellent.
In most cases, social services surpassed the standard percentage goal and in all most every case surpassed the state average.
"DHR takes a small sample of our cases and evaluates them to see if the decisions that we made were right," Jones said. "Using a quality control error rate which issubtracted from 100 percent, we are given our rating."
Jones noted that Carroll has a consistently high quality of work in the income maintenance area, as proven by a score of 100 percent.
During thisperiod, the child permanency plan was established and accepted by the Foster Care Review Board. Each child coming into social services must have a permanency plan to suit his or her particular circumstances.
The following plans have been classified:
* Return home to the parent(s) or legal guardian.
* Placement with relatives with appropriate legal status.
* Independent living if of legal age.
* Continuing foster care through guardianship, long-termcare or permanent care.
Jones also told the commissioners that the hopes of these high ratings may not be possible due to inadequate staff.
"The workload standards say that there should be one worker for 500 cases," he said. "Right now, we have one worker for 977 cases."
N.Y. BOND TRIP SET
The county commissioners, budget director and comptroller will journey to New York Monday to make their annual presentation to two bond rating houses, which evaluate the county's fiscal soundness and credit worthiness.
The commissioners are proposing to sell $27 million in bonds this year to finance an array of capital improvement projects. Maintaining a strong rating from Moody's and Standard & Poor's translates to lower interest rates and substantial savings over the life of a debt.
The commissioners have proposedapplying $2.47 million to Carroll Community College; $4.12 million for government facilities; $5.28 million for public works projects, such as roads; $5.93 million for landfills; $7.85 million for schools; and $1.35 million for volunteer fire companies.
The bond sale, slated for Nov. 13, represents the most the county ever has proposed to borrow in any one year. Over the past three years, the county has borrowed $15.5 million, $15.9 million and $5.6 million, respectively.
The county is about $55 million in debt from previous bond issues.
The county has no legal debt limit, but has adopted a guideline to protect its rating and ability to borrow at low interest rates. The debt guideline is 15 percent of the total estimated value of the property tax base.
A summary about Carroll from Moody's Municipal Credit Report last year said: "Continued tax base expansion, well-maintained financial operations, despite recent fund balance reductions, and moderate debt levels afford high quality security for this largely rural but developing county."
The county has turned more toward borrowing rather than using available tax revenues to finance public facility projects over the last few years. County officials say projects that will serve the public for many years should be paid for over a long period of time by both current and future residents.
FINKSBURG LAND REZONED
The county commissioners voted 2-1 to rezone five acresnear a busy intersection in Finksburg from low-density residential to business, even though the County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended against it.
The property, owned by John E. and Cora Zentzof Finksburg, is on the northwest side of Route 91 (Gamber Road) andthe southwest side of Bloom Road, bordering the Finksburg Plaza Shopping Center.
About eight neighborhood residents objected to the rezoning at a hearing, saying business development would make traffic patterns and congestion worse and could cause adverse environmental impacts. The parcel is near the Route 140 and Route 91 intersection.
County planners and the planning commission also cautioned that the rezoning could exacerbate an already "unsafe" traffic situation.
The commissioners ruled that the neighborhood has changed, citing population growth and several previous rezonings. They also concluded that traffic problems at the intersection exist largely because of through traffic. It was not substantiated that the rezoning would increasecongestion, the decision says.
Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Julia W. Gouge voted for the rezoning. Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy dissented.