Audit finds major problems in Mount Rainier’s finances

A long-awaited audit of Mount Rainier’s 2017 finances uncovered eye-opening issues, including spotty record-keeping, poor oversight, a need for more administrative staff and a lack of official policies governing many spending decisions. While the audit focused on 2017, its authors said many of the flaws found still need to be corrected “as soon as possible.” During a three-minute discussion of the audit during its April 7, 2020, City Council meeting, Mayor Malinda Miles said “the data in that audit has to be obsolete by now.” “Hopefully over the past two years, a lot of what has been found has been fixed as they were going through and preparing to have the audit now,” said Miles. Interim City Manager Latasha Gatling aknowledged the city’s financial safeguards and policies still need work.

No backyard chickens for Hyattsville, Council says

Backyard chickens remain banned in Hyattsville’s lawbooks. At its April 6, 2020, meeting, Hyattsville City Council easily defeated a measure from Councilor Danny Schaible that would have deleted city laws banning domestic chickens and other fowl. But Schaible’s proposal would not have overturned a county-level ban on domestic fowl in areas not zoned either agricultural or rural residential. Nor would it have established regulations governing the husbandry of backyard fowl. As Route 1 Reporter has previously covered, a majority of City Council said they would not support the measure unless one or both of those concerns were addressed.

Franchot: Maryland will see “significant and historic” budget hit from pandemic

Due to the economic impacts of the pandemic disruptions, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot says he expects state government revenue to drop by as much as 25 percent heading into the next fiscal year. Local governments in Prince George’s County are already bracing for a significant reduction in revenue. 

“We know it is going to be significant and historic,” said Franchot in an March 27, 2020, interview. “It could be a 20 to 25 percent reduction in state revenues for the forseeable future.”

Franchot noted the Comptroller’s Office could not even issue a state revenue estimate for March 2020. 

“We are still flying blind,” said Franchot. “All the signals are pointing to a significant reduction in state revenue.”

Maryland has a few tools at its disposal to deal with a big reduction in state revenue. 

As the Baltimore Sun noted March 20, 2020, Maryland legislators approved an emergency measure allowing Gov. Larry Hogan to reallocate $50 million from state reserves to respond to coronavirus and, in the budget, empowered him to tap another $100 million if needed. Additionally, Franchot noted that the Maryland Board of Public Works – a body made up of the governor, the comptroller, and the treasurer, can make unilateral line-item cuts to the Maryland budget of up to 25 percent.

Mount Rainier hires interim city manager

Mount Rainier has hired an interim city manager to head up the town’s administration as it looks for a full-timer to take on the role. The new city manager is Latasha Gatling, a former town councilor and, later, a town administrator for the city of Seat Pleasant and a former liason with the Prince George’s County Council. Gatling’s first day on the job is Nov. 19, 2019. 

The hire was announced by Mount Rainier Councilor Celina Benitez in a Facebook post Nov. 14, 2019.