County Comment: State and Federal Tax Dollars
State and Federal Tax Dollars
by Norman Bassett
Public Information Officer, Washington County Maryland
Last month readers got information in this column about the job the Washington County Gaming Commission performs, to make sure regulations on gambling are followed, and that money is fairly disbursed to charitable organizations and the Fire and Rescue companies.
This month, a look at how the County makes sure state and federal tax dollars providing assistance to community organizations are used in the right way.
In all Counties in Maryland there is a citizen "Local Management Board", chartered by the state to help local groups serving children and families achieve community improvement goals.
Stephanie Stone is Director of the Washington County Community Partnership (WCCP) for Children and Families, the operating arm of the County Local Management Board. WCCP is tied to the Governor's Office for Children, which strives to improve child and family services, and ensure agencies work together to help families.
LMB's have been in place in most Counties for about 10 years, Stone said, and in some, Like Washington County, the organizations are part of County Government. In others, the LMB may be a free-standing private non-profit organization.
"We can apply for state funds and federal funds. When that is available to us, it comes in to the County. It's then something that has to be overseen by the County Commissioners through our office," Stone said.
The funds are for grants to local agencies that serve children and youth and their families, and a Request for Proposal (RFP) process is followed through the County Purchasing Department's strict policies and procedures. Grants are competitive in nature, and funds must be used for those services agencies promise to deliver. The WCCP/LMB has approval over grating the funds, and monitoring of services provided in the community.
Another process, called "Call for Concepts" provides greater flexibility for grants of less than $25,000.
"What we will do is put those out as smaller grants, and it is totally Board driven, so that our Board is on the coordinating committee to make a decision about who would get that funding" Stone said.
"Many times that process is used for smaller grants, start-up for, especially, grass-roots organizations that don't have the staff to apply for a total RFP package. And maybe they don't have the capacity to handle some of the grants that may be larger in focus," she said.
Once a grant is awarded, a project coordinator is assigned to oversee that grant, Stone said, to make sure that the grant works and that the program works.
"Many times we've offered training and help in different situations," Stone said.
"We're here to make sure, from the State funding perspective, and for the Commissioners, to make sure that the program is being done the way it was supposed to be done, and that the money is being spent for what it was supposed to be spent. It's Taxpayer money, so we want to make sure that we are doing what the taxpayers have given us the job to do," Stone said.
Funding goes to priority areas determined by a need assessment of the community. Some of the areas that have been identified as having the greatest need include teen pregnancy prevention, substance abuse, and family preservation.
WCCP is working on a resource directory, expected to be complete this summer, and has an on-line data bank of service providers and information, at www.wccp-online.org and produces a monthly newsletter "Partnerships".
In addition, the office is working with the Mental Health Association of Frederick County to expand the 2-1-1 system. That information number, available in some areas in Maryland and West Virginia, is an information line that helps people find the services that they need.
The WCCP has been charged by the state to be the local access mechanism in Washington County to deal with issues involving youth and families that cut across agency lines. The ultimate goal, Stone said, is to provide one stop for families and individuals whose issues cannot be solved by only one service agency.