MILFORD, PA — Trained as an accountant and having spent a lifetime investigating financial fraud, incoming Milford Borough Council president Joseph Dooley is accustomed to looking after the details. That could explain why he and Maureen, his wife of 42 years, decided to rent a house directly across from their new one, which is being built on Strawberry Street.
The Dooleys’ relocation to Milford four years ago came after they spent two years’ worth of weekends touring small Pennsylvania towns, looking for the one that combined the elements they were seeking—mostly, a town that had robust civic and business experiences.
Having settled on Milford as that place, Joseph Dooley, 66, wasted no time settling in, contracting to build a house on one of the few remaining lots in the borough, and running successfully as a Republican for council in November 2019. In January 2022, he was elected board president.
“I view public service as a type of community service,” Dooley said over the phone rather than in person because of the omicron spread. “Just this morning, we handed out over 100 free COVID-19 test kits. The line was all the way down the street when I got there. I’ve been volunteering since I was a teenager.”
In his brief time on the council, Dooley spearheaded the effort to implement a new tax in the borough. The Earned Income Tax was adopted in October 2021. This one percent tax is levied on all borough residents who do not qualify for exemptions and those who work in the borough.
Dooley said that the consultant hired for the EIT implementation, Berkheimer Tax Innovations, couldn’t project exactly how much would be raised, but Dooley projected a multiple of $100,000, increasing revenue for the borough by upwards of 20 percent. The borough’s annual budget is approximately $1 million.
The EIT “was proposed before we understood the real estate tax bonanza,” Dooley explained, outlining an unexpected $160,000 in tax and grant revenue stemming from the pandemic real estate boom, collected from delinquent taxes levied on the sale of a home, real estate transaction transfer taxes, and the current tax levy, as well as grants from the federal government from the American Rescue Plan. “All of these extra funds we didn’t anticipate and we can’t really rely on them in the future,” he said.
Dooley does not expect to overturn the apple cart during his tenure, but he does hope to tinker with the engine a bit, helping the borough run cleaner and smoother after he moves on from politics.
With no quick fixes available for the borough’s list of challenges, he plans to work with the council to incrementally push forward solutions to tough issues that include central septic, an updating of the Historic Architectural Review Board guidelines, and an aging infrastructure of borough-owned properties. “2021 was a bonanza of tax revenue,” he said. “Every category exceeded what we had budgeted. That gives us some breathing room.”
Calling outgoing council president Frank Tarquinio “a gentleman and mentor,” and describing Mayor Sean Strub as “bringing a lot of energy” to the job, and saying he’s “glad he’s our mayor,” Dooley intends to build coalitions in order to push projects along. Saying he agrees that the business district needs some attention, he formed the Business District Alliance with fellow councilmembers Andrew Jorgensen and George Lutfy, who will “meet with representatives of the business community” to better understand their issues.
“We’ve all heard the complaints,” he said of the architectural review board. “We are reviewing the design guide, have created a citizen advisory board, and hope to make things easier for applicants. On the other hand, we also don’t want Forest Hall torn down to make way for a McDonalds.”
Dooley has shown an early effort at adaptability, and spoke to the importance of community reporting. “I relied on the local paper for many leads,” he said of his FBI investigations. “Having an investigating local paper is critical to a community.”
With a marriage spanning over four decades, two grown children and three granddaughters, a lifetime in public service chasing white-collar criminals that spanned agencies from the state police to the FBI, and a commitment to community service, only time will tell if there is still room in the local political arena for a hard-charging, church-going, fair-minded boy scout.
For Dooley, success will reside in his ability to pivot from asking all the questions in his years in law enforcement, to his ability to listen, and to incorporate and accommodate a fractured borough community in an even-handed manner.
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