Jersey City’s 2022 Municipal Budget: a Focus on Structural Expense

On June 15th, Jersey City released introduced its 2022 budget. This is a part of a series about that budget. In this post I’m using three public datasets:
A: Jersey City’s 2022 Municipal Budget (Introduced) with proposed 2022 revenue and expense, located on the city website here.
B: Jersey City’s 2015-2021 Municipal Budget summaries compiled in NJ’s User Friendly Budget Database (Excel file downloadable here).

In my last post, I shared a big picture of the budget. In this post, I want to focus on some nuance around expense because expense gets at the services we all care about, and what we pay property taxes for. I’ve also provided two visuals that will hopefully give taxpayers the ability to explore this data on their own.

Structural vs non-structural expense

I noted in my previous post that most of the city’s expense is “people cost” related, meaning salaries, healthcare, and retirement benefits. But it also includes items like the required servicing of debt (e.g. paying interest on bonds that have been issued). Visualized below is the entire expense side of the 2022 budget, with the blue colors representing the various expense “within CAPS,” which is where the recurring employee costs live.

Public Safety remains the largest area of expense, departmentally

Another key insight is the size of Public Safety. Its $217 million cost represents over 30% of the entire budget, and that is just salaries. Public Safety includes various departments including Police ($110 million excluding benefits), followed by the the Fire Department ($79 million excluding benefits).

There are of course many other departments which you can explore using the visual above. This budget can be a useful itemization of all the city does, in terms of services provided.

Another important note: the User Friendly Budget provides details around the numbers of employees – both full-time and part-time – in each department. I previously wrote about the User Friendly Budget in both my 2020 Jersey City series and my 2022 Montclair series.

Benefits (Healthcare and Retirement) are key costs, too

Full-time employees generally receive benefits in the form of healthcare and pension/retirement contributions. We can see these costs driving up expense, too, in the “17. Employee Group Healthcare” and “20. Retirement…” line items. Of note: the User Friendly Budget, another form of the budget that the city must publish each year, does provide a holistic view of departmental cost that combines salaries and benefits.

The data

Here is the full dataset with filterable views.

Wrapping up

It’s important to note here that behind much of this expense are city employees who are serving the public. Their salaries and benefits are earned, and the roles they play, and how we support them as city employees, is part of the community dialog that should be occurring around the annual budgeting process.

In a separate post I’ll focus on what’s changing, revenues-wise. For now, check out the other posts in this series:

And, check out my series from prior years:


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