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Jerry Andree, Township Manager

Jerry Andree, Township Manager

No level of government has more impact on daily life than local government. That’s why my colleagues and I at Cranberry Township are passionate about pushing the limits of excellence to provide the best possible services to our residents and customers. However, being well-served is not a passive achievement; it is a collective undertaking. Through this blog, we offer our personal reflections on that assignment. And we hope it will help engage you in joining us on that same collaborative mission.

Aug 22

Taking care of our residents

Posted on August 22, 2015 at 7:44 AM by Jerry Andree

During the past few weeks, Cranberry became the recipient of honors from a number of outside organizations. For example, the travel website Expedia recently rated Cranberry as one of the ten most comfortable cities to visit in America. Expedia Viewfinder Travel Blog

PA One Call and Columbia Gas just gave us an award for safe infrastructure maintenance practices. The Pennsylvania Municipal League and Sustainable Pittsburgh recently ranked us as a Platinum-level community for our sustainable policies and practices. And Moody’s Investor Service upgraded our credit rating from an already high Aa2 to an even higher Aa1 – one of just a handful of communities in the Commonwealth to be awarded that rating.

Each of those awards has a different focus. But that’s precisely why Cranberry is an excellent candidate for long-term success. We are a diverse community, and the diversity of our economic base is a huge advantage.  That strength can be traced back to decisions made by our Board of Supervisors around the time I began working for the Township 25 years ago.

As a community at the crossroad of two major Interstate highways, Cranberry could easily have become the region’s pre-eminent warehouse, transfer and truck stop location.  In fact, a generation ago, that was where the growth pressure came from. But our Board of Supervisors listened to our residents, and heard a different vision.  

While they understood growth couldn’t be stopped, they also heard clearly that the growth needed to meet our residents’ expectations of Cranberry being more than a one-industry town. So they undertook a remake of our Comprehensive Plan, adopting a new one in 1995 that completely changed the way we managed our growth. In hindsight, it was clearly the right thing to do, but it wasn’t universally popular. 

Long-time Cranberry residents will recall the Township’s battles with major land owners and developers over the next three years, along with multiple legal challenges to the Plan and its implementing ordinances. But the Plan, the ordinances, and the elected officials all survived.

Not long after that, Cranberry was named the Outstanding Community of the Year by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry – the first time the State Chamber ever selected a Township for that honor. Our Board was invited to a grand assembly of business leaders and state elected officials in Harrisburg for the award presentation, which was led by the Governor himself.  

Our own Board Chairman at the time, in accepting the award, said it best. Our Board is focused on building a community with the highest quality of life for our residents, he told them. If you take care of your residents, everything else will take care of itself.  

Since that time, company after company, whether in technology, healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, retail or research, has validated our Board’s decision, choosing to locate here because we are precisely the sort of place their employees want to live. Taking care of our residents remains the foundation of what we do; it’s why Cranberry Township is what it is today.  

It is also why Cranberry is poised to be a desirable place to live, work and play for generations to come.  

I would love to hear your thoughts about Cranberry’s development. Email me at Jerry Andree
Jun 29

Is the future what it used to be?

Posted on June 29, 2015 at 11:11 AM by Jerry Andree

Six years ago, Cranberry’s Board of Supervisors formally adopted a comprehensive plan for the Township.  Nearly three years in the making, it set out Cranberry’s philosophy, policies and priorities through 2030.  It was a massive effort involving lots of residents, staff and professional consultants.

While it was not our first comprehensive plan – others had been prepared in 1977 and 1995 – it was by far the most comprehensive of those comprehensive plans, embracing essentially every aspect of life in the Township affected by its municipal government.  As Pennsylvania’s fastest-growing community at that time, the plan attempted to address one central question: what should Cranberry be like once its growth leveled off and we became a mature, fully-developed community?

The answers would determine how our land should be zoned for use, how development should be managed, what sorts of infrastructure would be needed to support a fully built-out community, how we could retain the engagement of local residents, and how to do it all in a way that would remain financially sustainable over the long haul. 

At least this far into the plan’s 25-year horizon, I think it’s fair to say we did a pretty good job of getting things right.  But, as with every long-range plan, unforeseen changes can take place over time which challenge its underlying assumptions.  As a result, it’s always good to revisit those plans periodically and determine whether their bases and projections remain valid.

So this year, we are revisiting our comprehensive plan, and we’re inviting all our residents to participate.  Your views will be critical in determining if the long-range plan’s original priorities need to be tweaked and whether there are new issues that now require Township government attention.

Part of that update effort involves three surveys, posted at weekly intervals, to probe different aspects of life in the Township.  Every survey contains ten questions, each of which can be answered on a five-point rating scale, as well as an open-ended question providing respondents an opportunity to submit their own comments.  The first of the three survey forms is now online.  The survey period will close at noon on Monday, July 20.

At the conclusion of that survey sequence, all of our responses will be compiled and analyzed to determine whether new strategies are required to supplement the ones identified in the 2009 plan.  Every resident, regardless of age, is welcome to participate; no personally identifying information will be collected in the survey.

Survey questions relate to perceptions of Cranberry’s economic development, land use planning, library services, schools, community aesthetics, transportation, safety and recreational opportunities, as well as other aspects of community life affected by local government policies. 

In addition to the online survey forms, which can be accessed at www.CranberryPlanUpdate, print copies are available from Municipal Center take-one racks and from our customer service desks. 

Other opportunities will also be available to participate in the update.  A Public Forum on the plan update is scheduled for Tuesday, June 30 in Council Chambers from 6:00 to 8:00 PM.  An information booth in Community Park will be open on Saturday, July 11 during Community Days.  A public meeting is scheduled for September 29 at 6:00 PM.  And email comments are welcome at

Mar 02

Pennsylvania’s 50% Rabbitburger

Posted on March 2, 2015 at 11:42 AM by Jerry Andree

In his classic book “How to Lie with Statistics,” author Darrell Huff provides the example of a restaurateur offering his special “50% Rabbitburger.”  The recipe?  Take one horse and one rabbit, grind them up, mix them together, and Voila!  A 50% Rabbitburger.

It seems that the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has taken that recipe to heart and fried one up for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  In a P-G chart published on February 23 entitled “Enough Said,” the article states that 9.3 percent of the income from Cranberry households making $60,000 to $95,000 a year goes to state and local taxes.  I won’t dispute those figures.  But that tax bite has all the ingredients of a perfect rabbitburger. 

When the rabbit of local government is casually mixed together with the horse of state government, it leaves the distinct impression that the two are equally responsible for the resulting bite of taxpayer money.  But they’re not.  And frankly, that rubs me and my counterparts in municipal governance the wrong way.

If you look closely at the numbers, 9.3 percent of Cranberry’s average $94,000 household income is $8,742.  But of that amount, just $713 goes to Cranberry Township; more than $8,000 goes to other units of government.  Then it gets more interesting.  When you look at the income tax levied by the state, its 3.07% rate applies to all forms of income – dividends, interest, retirement income, royalties, etc.  Cranberry, on the other hand, levies a tax on just earned income – a much narrower band of household income – and even then, it’s only 0.5%. 

That $713 goes a long, long way in Cranberry and its use is much more transparent.  For example, it provides first-class, professional public safety services – police, fire and the guaranteed timely response of EMS.  It covers the maintenance of around 82% of the public roads in the Township; the other 18% are state owned.  It pays for high quality recreational and park facilities and a first-class library – the only one in Butler County open seven days a week.  It includes professional land use management which has resulted in one of the most desirable communities in the state.  And it finances a responsive, professionally run local government – all for about half of what the average household pays a year for cable and internet service.

Beyond that, Cranberry has one of the highest possible financial ratings for local government – significantly better than the State’s own financial rating by those same agencies.  That’s why we get irritated when we’re mixed in with the state and served up as a common Rabbitburger.

If we were to show that in graphic form, it would look more like this:

State and Local Taxes

So, to the editors of the Post-Gazette, I say Bon Appetite!  Your rabbitburger is waiting.  Enough said.