Balancing New York City’s budget each fiscal year is critical and is required by City and State law. However, budget constraints can impact the City’s ability to provide adequate public services for its residents, workers and prospective visitors. In New York City, the demand for services is especially high, being the most populous municipality in the country by far with more than eight million residents.
The Office of the New York State Comptroller (OSC) has recommended that the City consider and communicate service impacts when implementing budget and staffing adjustments, including to programs funded with one-time aid. In February and November 2022, OSC published reports which analyzed the retention and recruitment of City employees. In September 2023, OSC highlighted where the City does and does not have control over future spending. OSC also discusses these issues in its regular assessments of the City’s financial plans.
Furthering this effort, OSC has developed a tool which juxtaposes the City’s reported performance data with staffing and spending. The City’s Mayor’s Management Report (MMR) was created nearly 50 years ago and its annual publication has since been enshrined in the City Charter. The report, which was created to strengthen oversight and allow the public a view into City services, has been modernized, including the release of the Dynamic Mayor’s Management Report (DMMR) in 2022. The data included in the DMMR and MMR provide valuable transparency on demand for public services and the City’s operational performance in meeting their objectives.
Although MMR data does not explicitly identify funding or staff associated with the performance indicators, it provides important details to link spending and staffing to agency performance indicators by identifying the agency divisions associated with a service. OSC expands on the MMR presentation by displaying the corresponding staffing and expense data that is regularly provided by the New York City Office of Management and Budget.
OSC’s tool displays a three-panel visualization of performance indicators, staffing levels and spending commitments assigned to a City service since January 2020. Users can select an agency and indicator from the drop-down menus. This unique perspective allows users to focus in on specific services and how they are trending, along with the associated personnel and funding in parallel with those historical data points. While there are many factors that affect service demand and provision, the tool can provide some insight on existing operational or budgetary phenomena or the emergence of potential risks to the City’s budget and the provision of certain services.
The tool is updated monthly following the update of the DMMR file, presenting the most recent snapshot of available trends. While many City agencies do collect information that is provided publicly on a monthly or quarterly basis, some agencies, including the Department of Education, do so on an annual basis. Additionally, some data is reported on a time lag, as specified by the City. The tool is limited in providing insight for these agencies due to its dependence on data from the agencies and in the DMMR.
As identified in the latest preliminary MMR, City services have experienced wide variations affected by several factors. These variations are reflected in the tool. For example, timely reviews of applications at the Human Resources Administration for forms of public assistance remain well below pre-pandemic levels amid increased demand. In contrast, inspections by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene returned to or exceeded levels seen prior to the pandemic. The tool should be used as a means for asking questions about the state of City services given the context of spending and staffing levels, but cannot on its own explain the challenges and successes each City agency has had over the past few years.
- The tool does not include the complete universe of indicators provided in the DMMR dataset. OSC’s selection criteria included only indicators in which at least 36 months of data was available for indicators reported on a monthly basis and at least nine quarters of data was available for indicators reported on a quarterly basis, since January 2020. Indicators that have been recently introduced in the dataset are an exception to the criteria.
- The DMMR dataset includes indicator values of zero and blank inputs. Blank inputs represent missing data; however, some agencies also report missing data values as zeroes. Therefore, there is inconsistency in the City’s reporting of a true zero value and a zero representing a missing value.
- Staffing and expense data as shown in the tool represent the sum of staff and expenses in agency divisions associated with the service; however, the portion of staff or expenses dedicated to providing services can vary greatly.
- Expense data in the tool includes both personal services (salaries and wages) and spending commitments for other than personal services (e.g., contractual services, utilities, and supplies/equipment). While personal service costs are mostly expensed within structured intervals (pay periods), the timing for other than personal services expenses can be irregular or ad-hoc. This could result in uneven monthly spending commitments, especially at the beginning of each fiscal year, when much of the annual budget is encumbered for services anticipated over the balance of the fiscal year.
- The tool is reporting on City values as-is, and any questions over data gaps or anomalies should be directed to the Mayor’s Office of Operations.
- For comments and suggestions, please send an email to [email protected].