Berkeley Heights Residents Urge Town Council To Not Lay Off Two Police Officers To Save Money in the Upcoming Budget

The Berkeley Heights Town Council.

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - A room full of nearly 200 Berkeley Heights residents, police officers, PBA supporters and other town officials packed Town Hall on Tuesday night to speak in opposition to the proposed lay off of six township employees in order to save $331,000 in the upcoming budget. Most were specifically not in favor of laying off two police officers, which would bring the department down to 21 active officers.

Many people cited concerns about safety and timeliness of officers to report to an emergency with a reduced staff. Police Chief David Zager maintained that it was his intention to provide the finest of quality service to Berkeley Heights just as the department has done in the past. He continued, saying that based on the amount of people in the town that there should actually be 26 police officers.

"We can't afford this loss...The current services we provide won't be able to be carried through in the future if this goes through," Zager said.

He also said that certain programs like the DARE program that is currently in operation in Berkeley Heights schools will be gone with a shortened staff. Zager also pointed out that the two officers that are planned to be let go, which are the two most recently employed officers, provide an outstanding service to the town. "This council needs to find another way to save money without impacting public safety," Zager concluded.

Berkeley Heights resident Vince Bury spoke at the meeting and asked if the safety of the town will be impacted with a loss in police manpower. After council delayed to answer, Mayor Robert Woodruff replied, saying "Maybe it will. Maybe it won't." He said that there is no way of knowing that answer for sure, much to the dismay of almost every member of the public in the room.

Other members of the public were unhappy about the town not negotiating properly with the PBA Unions. Union County Prosecutor Ted Romankow said that the unions want to negotiate in good faith in order to protect the public and for the town to have an effective police department. He also mentioned that Berkeley Heights and New Providence have seen raising crime rates in recent years, which is not consistent with the majority of Union County. Romankow stressed to the Council that laying off additional officers will seriously jeopardize the community.

Union member Michael Broderick also spoke at the meeting and complained that the Council has not offered them anything to negotiate with. He told the Council that he would be more than happy to have a meeting with them and other union members in order to save money in the budget without laying off town employees.

Residents also expressed their concerns. Oakland Street resident Brenda Belleville said that sometimes safety is taken for granted in the town and that is a good thing because of the quality of services that the police department provides. "I ask that you do everything in your power to keep our officers in the street because this really is a great place to live," Belleville said.

Mayor Woodruff assured the public that the Council had no intention of laying off any employees at Tuesday night's meeting. He said that he respects everyone's concerns.

It was mentioned that the Council may be able to save $200,000, which is currently being used in reserve for uncollected taxes. That may be a way to save money, but the additional $131,000 needed to keep the six township employees would still be missing from the budget.

Before the public comments section of the meeting, the Council had a discussion about the budget issues. The Council members mentioned that in addition to the savings from laying off six township employees, there are also plans to reduce employee furloughs, change employee health plans, and not give any raises to township employees for the upcoming year. None of these strategies have been discussed with or approved by the unions thus far.

Councilmen John Bonacci and Gerald Nelson were not in favor of laying off township employees to save money in the budget. Both insisted that there are other ways for the town to save this money. Bonacci said that a presentation should be given where the revenues match the expenditures in the budget; something that has not been done yet. He even stood up from his chair at one point in the meeting and said that it is the responsibility of the Council to pass a fair, reasonable budget. "Who is actually running this budget? It isn't me." Bonacci said -- a statement that received loud applause from the public.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Honoring Sacrifice and Service on Memorial Day

May 25, 2018

On Monday, May 28, 2018, our Nation celebrates our most solemn event, Memorial Day.  In Berkeley Heights tradition, we will honor those who sacrificed themselves so that we may continue to live in the greatest country on earth.  I invite all residents to join us for the parade festivities and, most importantly, gather at our Veteran’s Park for a brief ceremony.

America has ...

Logic and Sensible Spending Take Priority

Logic.  It's what people use when endeavoring to complete things in the most sensible order.  Everyone knows that "logic" means sequencing events in a formulaic, predictable manner.  We learned this at a young age, as we observed Star Trek on TV and came to understand why Captain James T. Kirk relied on Spock as his first officer because his strategic plans were ...

I will draw on my experience to deliver a great future for Berkeley Heights

I am impressed with the day-to-day leadership of our Mayor and Town Council and I hope to help them continue to do great work. As I have been doing my research since deciding to run for a seat on our Town Council, I have learned a few things about all the work that has been happening in recent years.  For example, while plans for the Stratton House development were recently announced, our ...

How the Holi Color Festival Came to Summit; Event Planner Shares Her Story

May 21, 2018

Back in India, Holi was a holiday observed by almost all states. The holiday would be declared at all educational institutes and offices. It's a two day spring festival also known as the festival of colors. The festival signifies the victory of good over bad, the arrival of spring with the fragrance of flowers in the air and aura of warmth and happiness.

Holi festival is the time ...

Rain Didn't Dampen Our Vision for Art in the Park

The rain did not dampen our vision for Art in the Park!! Columbia Middle School was transformed into an art paradise, filled with an array of artists whose talents are nothing short of magical! The Peppertown Park Art in the Park Committee would like to thank all of the artists who came to our very first Art in the Park event. We are in awe of your creativity and immeasurable talents! You all ...

Jewish Transgender Activist Abby Stein Speaks at Summit's Congregation Beth Hatikvah June 10

May 27, 2018

SUMMIT, NJ - Congregation Beth Hatikvah (CBH) will celebrate 'LGBTQ Pride Month' with a visit from Abby Stein, who will share her unusual and inspirational story of transition from Hasidic rabbi to transgender activist during a wine and cheese reception held June 10 at 4:30 p.m.

Stein, a direct descendant of the Baal Shem Tov -- founder of the Hasidic movement ...

Union County 4-H Teens Pitch in for Geology Open House

Members of the Union County 4-H Teen Service Club volunteered as docents at the Rutgers Geology Museum last Saturday for a National Science Foundation program called In Search of Earth’s Secrets: A Pop-Up Science Encounter.

The students helped visitors navigate the interactive exhibits, as part of a collaborative project including the Rutgers University Department of Marine & Coastal ...

Union County College President Received Prestigious Award from Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society

CRANFORD – Union County College’s President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin was one of 35 college presidents from throughout the nation to receive a Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction during PTK Catalyst 2018, the Society’s annual convention, in Kansas City, Missouri, held from April 19-21.

The award honors college presidents who have demonstrated ...

A Better Summer with the Y: Join by May 31 and Have Your Joiner Fee Waiver!

From now through the end of May, new members joining the Berkeley Heights YMCA will have their joiners fee waived, because at the Y we believe that everyone deserves to reach their health and wellness goals. With a savings of up to $95, you can focus on the perks of being a Berkeley Heights YMCA member:

Unlimited attendance to more than 100 group fitness classes a week
• State of ...

Fallout Continues from Lawsuit Against Mountainside; Police Chief on Administrative Leave

May 19, 2018

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Police Chief Allan Attanasio is the latest member of the police department to suffer repercussions from a complaint filed against the borough on May 11.  Attanasio, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was “placed on administrative leave,” on Thursday by Borough Administrator and former Police Chief James Debbie, said  Lt. Joseph ...

Cycling Champ Laura Van Gilder Returns to Somerville Memorial Day to Defend Race Title

May 26, 2018


SOMERVILLE, NJ – Laura Van Gilder, 54-year-old cycling champion from Cresco, Pa., will return to defend her title at the 75th annual Tour of Somerville on Memorial Day, attempting an unprecedented fifth win in the 25-mile women's race, just one of several races that begin at 10:30 a.m..

The Kugler-Anderson Tour of Somerville, often referred to as the Kentucky Derby of ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, May 31, 11:30 AM

Canoe Brook Country Club, Summit

Fortnightly Club Scholarship Luncheon

Food & Drink Giving Back

Thu, May 31, 1:30 PM

Coppola Ristorante, New Providence

Lunch and Learn: Dental Implants and the ...

Health & Wellness


Thu, May 31, 7:00 PM

Gov. Livingston Cafeteria, Berkeley Heights

Gov. Livingston Hilltop Players Host Annual Relay ...


Thu, May 31, 7:00 PM

Gov. Livingston Cafeteria, Berkeley Heights

Gov. Livingston Hilltop Players Host Annual Relay ...

Arts & Entertainment


Fri, June 1, 6:00 PM

Senior Center of the Chathams, , Chatham Township

Senior Center of the Chathams Glorious Garden ...

Food & Drink Home & Garden

The Evaluation of the College Search

It’s is a bizarre time of year as a college counselor as I find myself at both the beginning and end of this process.  Sophomores and juniors are excitedly and idealistically starting to consider what will be important to them in a school.  At the same time, while only separated by a year or two, my seniors have all committed within the past month to a school and have spent the ...

How to Design Your Ideal Retirement

Would you like to design your ideal retirement? Where do you begin? First of all, what does retirement mean to you? If you’re in a relationship, does retirement mean the same to you as it does to your partner? Do you know if your “ideal retirement” is affordable or just a pipe dream?

In past generations, retirement planning didn’t involve very much. You stopped work ...

Don’t Make These Three Mistakes About Social Security

Social Security has been around for decades and it’s not about to disappear. Why? Social Security is not an entitlement ("gift") that can be taken away - it’s a forced savings scheme that Americans pay into in their working years in order to secure a pension for life. Ideally, Social Security should not be your sole source of income in retirement but even comfortable ...