Methodology

The Federal Budget Tracker relies on a number of data sources, requires certain assumptions to approximate values, and in some case reorganizes grant data for uniformity.

  • Current Year Data: For FY 2019 figures, we rely on the New York City’s Office of Management and Budget’s Budget Function Analysis (BFA) report from the FY 2019 Adopted Budget. The disadvantage of using the BFA is that the data reported are estimates of current year spending, updated with each iteration of the the budget (e.g., January Plan, Adopted Budget, and November’s Modified Budget). Each year, we will update the <budget tool> with data from the Modified Plan, also known as the November Plan. This plan reflects the most up to date estimates of the previous fiscal year. The advantage is that the BFA provides a level of detail not available elsewhere by detailing federal grants by an agency’s “budget function”, which is simply a way to categorize an agency’s spending. For example the Department for the Aging is divided into six budget functions (Senior Center and Meals, Senior Employment and Benefits, Homecare, etc.). These data are available on NYC Open Data.
  • Historical Data: For FY 2010 through FY 2018 data, we rely on the New York City Comptroller’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). These reports are published in October of each year and report on “actual” spending — that is, what the city actually spent versus the budget’s anticipated spending — during the previous fiscal year. Each year, we will update the trends in actual spending when the CAFR is released. These data begin in FY 2010 to illustrate changes in federal spending in NYC following the economic recovery that officially began in June 2009.
  • Categorization: City budget documents sometime split grant spending for internal accounting purposes, such as administration and program costs for Foster Care (Title IV-E) grants. For uniformity, our analysis combines these sub-categories into one grant by matching the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number in the City’s budget documents with the grant information obtained from beta.sam.gov.
  • Exclusions: Federal spending included grants from the economic stimulus provided by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) following the Great Recession, and still includes Disaster Relief Aid, such as for Hurricane Sandy. These data were excluded from our analysis.
  • Selected Grants vs Cross Agency Grants: Because city officials often have discretion in how certain grants are allocated among agencies, and do not have the same flexibility in other cases, we categorize agency grants as selected if they exclusively and consistently supported an agency since FY 2010, and cross-agency if they are distributed across agencies.

To determine the cost of erosion for cross-agency grants by agency, we assume the share of a particular grant allocated to an agency in the latest year data is available remained constant during the decade and apply that to the cost of the cross-agency grant’s total erosion (real amount – nominal amount = cost). We only analyze a cross-agency grant if it supported the agency each year during the decade so as to not overstate the impact.

  • Real vs Nominal and the Cost of Erosion: The cost of government grows roughly at the same rate of the economy. Therefore, when making long term comparisons, data is adjusted to reflect the rate of economic growth in NYC using personal income data for New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ (Metropolitan Division) from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

This can be expressed as a dollar amount to quantify the cost of letting a grant erode (real amount – nominal amount = cost) or as a percentage to determine if the share of our overall resources being allocated to these goals is increasing or decreasing over time.

Open Data

Advocates, policymakers, and media will be able to embed the visualizations into their digital media and download many of the underlying data. Additional data is also available on our Tableau page.