The “User Friendly Budget”, Part 3: the “Cover Page”, an Inventory of NJ’s 565 Municipalities, & An Overview of How UFB Data was Compiled

This is a post in a series about NJ’s User Friendly Budget. My intent is to share basic analysis and insights with community as a way to encourage taxpayers to engage with this document and learn more about local public finance. Read the other posts in this series here including how to access your town’s UFB and the UFB’s table of contents.

The data I’ll be sharing in this series is compiled from 565 separate Excel files submitted to the state by each municipality. This post is a rough outline of how the data was compiled.

NJ’s 565 Municipalities, with Select Cover Page Details:

First, let’s get our hands around NJ’s 565 different towns, cities, boroughs, villages, etc.  Each one of them files a unique UFB along with pertinent data on the Cover Page. I compiled a few of the details of the Cover Page -you can see those details in the red boxes in the callout below.

And…here is the data compiled —

How the data was compiled

I downloaded every UFB file from this website and then compiled the data using a Microsoft Excel VBA script. A few observations that I want to share upfront:

  • Errors do occur in the raw data; in this sense, the budget is a starting document, and we taxpayers should and can clarify facts or issues by asking questions. For instance, Pemberton Borough’s 2019 UFB file has its budgetary dollar amounts (from Column S) in Column Column L (Full Time Employees) which makes it look like Pemberton has 371,042 employees for Public Safety.  Errors occur.  A quick call to Pemberton Borough’s town hall could likely clarify this issue (this is not an issue I would personally chase down, but I lift it up as an example).
  • A handful of towns and cities did not, in completing their town’s UFB file, input their own municipality name. I did not go back and fix but I do want to note it, since the Municipality filter will (in some views) show a “0” for:
    • Montvale (Bergen County)
    • Harrison (Hudson County)
    • Glen Gardner (Hunterdon County)
    • Raritan (Hunderton County
    • Eatontown (Monmouth County)
    • Monmouth Beach (Monmouth County)
    • Hazlet (Monmouth County)
  • While I have reviewed this data thoroughly and done my best to squeeze out all errors in the data compilation process,  errors and omissions may occur on my end. My visualizations are intended to be a starting point, and it’s good practice (especially if you are an advocate) to trace your research back to your town’s source (original) file from your own website (look in the list above if you don’t know your town’s website) or the NJ Depart of Community Affairs website.
  • Most towns and cities have budgets for 2019 (the most recent year available). However, not all towns had this more recent data and I had to go back 1, 2, 3, and in some cases 4 years to find a budget file from the state website. Here’s a filterable summary of the files, by county and town, and with the noted year the data relates to:

Coming up…

My next post will start to dive into the actual data as we peel back the layers of the 3rd tab, “UFB3 – Appropriations Summary”.

Please email me at Brigid@CivicParent.org if you have questions. 

Posted in Advocacy, NJ User Friendly Budget, Property Taxes.