AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE BOROUGH COUNCIL TO THE RESIDENTS OF PEAPACK AND GLADSTONE IN RESPONSE TO THE RECENT PBA LETTER SENT TO BOROUGH RESIDENTS
Recently, many residents received a letter in the mail from the PBA Local 139, advocating its position to the public with respect to the upcoming arbitration with the Borough. The governing body of the Borough of Peapack and Gladstone felt it important to respond with this Open Letter to address some of the incorrect, misleading and negative statements contained therein. Rather than respond on a point-by-point basis, however, we as the governing body have instead chosen this brief response to address several general issues of significance to the public.
Every four years, the Borough and PBA enter contract negotiations to update contract terms for PG police officers. Contract terms of the PBA agreement include salary and other benefits. Since early 2021, the Borough has been directly negotiating the terms of the upcoming contract with the PBA. The PBA has continued to reject what we perceive to be very reasonable offers by the Borough, including increased pay and benefits. When a PBA such as Local 139 rejects such offers, the parties are obligated to enter into an arbitration process in order to resolve the issues. This is a step the Borough would have liked to avoid; however, since the numerous Borough offers were rejected by the PBA, the Borough was left with no option but to pursue arbitration to be conducted by a neutral arbitrator. Both the Borough and the PBA shall each be represented by an attorney throughout the arbitration process. Many municipalities, including neighboring municipalities to PG have undergone the exact same type of arbitration to resolve agreements with their local police unions. The situation presently in Peapack and Gladstone is not unique and it is not new. Also, contrary to the assertion of the PBA, the officers are not working without a contract, as the prior contract continues in full force and effect until a new one is reached.
The PBA letter also contained several negative statements about the overall operations of the Borough. Those statements, however, are simply not correct. We greatly appreciate the work of all Borough employees, including the police officers, and are very pleased with the current state of Borough Administration. Like anywhere, there have been several very well deserved retirements, individual choices to pursue other employment or life choices, and unfortunately some situations of departures not in good standing. Regrettably, the facts presented on this topic were somewhat skewed in this regard. For example, the Department is only at 7 full-time members at this point because on officer resigned, for less that favorable reasons having nothing to do with the Borough, the day before the PBA wrote the letter to the public. This important fact was omitted by the PBA when citing statistics in its letter. The letter also neglected to mention that the Borough has already begun steps towards replacing that officer. In the meantime, there has been no notable rise in crime, calls or population in the Borough over the last several years, despite what may have been claimed in the letter.
Your elected officials on the Borough Council manage a taxpayer budget that includes the compensation and benefits of all staff, including police officers as well as a great many other expenses related to operating a municipal government. The governing body is always mindful of the fact that salary issues directly affect the tax dollars which you as residents are required to expend. The governing body works diligently to keep your tax increases as low as possible, while still striving to pay Borough employees a fair and competitive salary and benefits. We encourage residents to ask question and come to the Council meetings to understand all of the facts, rather than to be misled by incorrect, irrelevant and negative statements that are counterproductive to this great municipality.
Signed: The Borough Council of the Borough of Peapack and Gladstone