Jersey City Municipal Budgets: a high level visual review of 2015 through 2023

I was curious about Jersey City’s budgetary trends and so created a few high level visuals that I am sharing on CivicParent in case others were interested in understanding these documents in real-time, i.e. relevant to the current budget process in 2023.  I wrote a series about the “user friendly” budget in 2020 if you need a primer on this budget form.

The municipal budget is hyper detailed but when we summarize it we can see a basic pattern that repeats each year:

  • The majority of the municipal budget is salaries and benefits (aka “people cost”) for city employees (with police and fire being the biggest departments with the most employees).
  • Taxpayers collectively help fund this investment through the city tax levy. Abatement PILOT fees are another revenue (and offset to the property tax), followed by state aid and other sources.
  • As Jersey City is growing, so is its structural expense, and so is the city tax levy to help pay for it all.

There is nuance to all of this and lots of detail worth diving into; that said, my aim is to keep this rather basic and provide the big picture view.  Some upfront caveats on the visuals:

  1. The 2023 numbers are from the introduced budget; the final approved budget will likely differ.
  2. I wrote up and shared a separate visual about the 2023 budget, with additional detail for 2023, here.
  3. Errors and omissions can (and do sometimes) occur on CivicParent despite my best attempts to squash every bug. So please refer back to the original data files if you’re unsure of any numbers or simply want to validate what you’re seeing on thi
  4. You can find the User Friendly Budgets in two places: the state Department of Community Affairs “Fiscal Reports” website and the city’s “Financial Reports” page
  5. Please see the bottom of this post for some wonk nuance related to source data.

Visual #1: High Level View of Revenue & Expense

The structure of the budget is fairly consistent year on year. The major variable in the past few years that is a bit of an outlier is the federal COVID-19 aid which was introduced in 2021 and will expire by 2024. That funding is included in the revenue item “08-Other Special Items” (in the green bar chart).  You can see this and other items in my previous post, “Jersey City Municipal Budget, 2023: A visual walkthrough of the proposed budget.”

Visual #2: Personnel Investment

The “User Friendly” Budget provides a cross-sectional view of “people cost” in a worksheet called “UFB-7 Personnel Cost.” Here is what the UFB-7 sheet looks like in the 2023 introduced user friendly budget:

These details are not available in the General budget file (that budget form buckets healthcare into “Insurance” and pension cost into “Statutory”), which makes this an interesting and helpful view for those interested in the major buckets of salaries and expense.

Wonk Nuance (for those interested):

For the Revenue & Expense summary visual:

  • To create these visuals, I used available User Friendly Budget files in either Excel or PDF. If in PDF, I digitized the file to Excel. I then linked the data to Tableau.
  • The city website lists all budgets here: Where there were both “introduced” and “adopted” budgets, these visuals include the “adopted” (finalized) version.
  • “Public & Private Revenues” and related appropriations are investments that have their own funding source (e.g. county grants) that then show up in the city budget as a related expense. This category can vary each year, and it can be an incomplete view in the introduced budget.
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