Councilman Cooney objects to new borough budget (and everything else)

Milford. Milford Borough Council approves budget with police raises, parking restrictions during elections, and permitting requirements for public demonstrations.

| 17 Nov 2021 | 12:33

The Milford Borough Council passed its budget on Nov. 16, with only Pete Cooney voting no.

Cooney has consistently voted against the grain on the council. He said no on the budget. He said no to Catharine Street parking restrictions during elections. He said no to permits for public demonstrations. And he said no to the purchase of two police cars.

The new budget, passed after the council instituted the Earned Income Tax (EIT) to bolster revenue, means that the police will get raises and that the millage rate used to calculate property taxes will be decreased.

Cooney is unconvinced.

“EIT is a regressive tax and an assault on working residents and non-residents of Milford Borough,” he told the Courier in an email.

He said the EIT was pushed through by a lame duck council that has appointed members who will not be back in 2022. The public was led to believe the borough was in dire financial trouble but had, as of Sept. 30, actually collected $65,000, he said.

To levy a one percent tax on people who work in the borough but live elsewhere is unfair, said Cooney. Not taxing all borough residents is unfair, he said, as is taxing renters but not the landlords who collect their rents.

Also, he said, if a property owner lives with other people who work in the borough — spouses, children, and others of working age — they would all have to pay the EIT, he said.

Cooney said reducing the millage rate sends a misleading message. Five mills is about $185, which is equivalent to earning $18,500 a year. With the price of housing in Milford Borough, he said, no borough property owner earns only $18,500. More realistically, he said, a couple would have to make at least $100,000 a year to afford a house in the borough, and pay $1,000 in EIT. That would amount to a $815 increase in taxes. Therefore, he said, the EIT is an unfair scale that some councilmembers used to make the tax enticing to residents.

By law, the EIT cannot be earmarked for one specific purpose and must go into the general fund. Cooney said telling the public that services would be reduced, most notably police services, was a scare tactic. The $65,000 surplus contradicts the council’s rationale for pushing through the EIT on July 1, he said.

The council said the EIT can be easily repealed by a simple majority vote of the council.

“We will see,” Cooney said.

Giving thanks. Councilman Frank Tarquinio talked about what he was grateful for at this time of Thanksgiving. He thanked Adrian Wendell, who is leaving the community, for her years of service to the borough, calling her “indispensable.” He noted that Rob Ciervo has been a “great asset to the borough.” He thanked all who ran for office. “I’ve never worked with so many great people who want to do the right thing,” he said. He said, “Billy Rosado has spent millions, and this is an asset to our borough.” Tarquinio thanked the county commissioners for the ambulance service that wasn’t there five years ago. When Joe Dooley thanked Tarquinio, the room erupted in applause.
Public demonstrations. The council passed a resolution requiring permits for public demonstrations on borough streets and property, with only Councilman Cooney voting no. Cooney said people could no longer walk on their own streets.
Police cars. The council authorized Mayor Sean Strub and Chief Matthew McCormack to buy two police cars. Councilman Cooney asked why two cars were necessary at the same time. Councilman Tarquinio said one car was totaled and another was part of a program to recycle older police vehicles. Cooney scoffed and voted no. The council also accepted the insurance settlement of the totaled police car.
Elections parking: The council passed a resolution enabling one-hour parking on West Catharine Street during elections, starting at Gooseberry Alley for 100 feet on both sides of the street going towards Fifth Street. Councilman Cooney voted no.
Cameras installed: Councilwoman Maria Farrell said cameras installed at three of four locations can be accessed from police cars and at the police station.
Expenditures: The council also unanimously voted to approve $6,300 for two heaters in borough garage; $4,300 for paving Peach Alley to Third Street where UGI will stop paving; and a $15,000 allocation of the joint Lehaman/Borough multimodal grant for new signs.
Harford Inn. The council approved planning commission’s recommendation of a land development application for the Harford Inn.
Meeting date change. The council changed its December meeting date from Dec. 21 to Dec. 14.