The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Visualize the DC budget

At the recent International Open Data Hackathon, Justin Grimes put the DC budget into a "treemap," a chart that shows a lot of items as rectangles of different sizes. This makes it very easy to understand how much money is going to different functions.

View larger chart.

Since Justin's spreadsheet was public, I was able to make a copy to tweak a few things. I modified some of the titles to get the agency's abbreviation to the start, so that you can understand more of them in the top-level chart, and revised the color scale to one that should be more perceptible to color-blind readers.

The colors represent which categories increased or decreased in FY2013, the budget approved last year for the fiscal year we're in now. Green boxes increased more, while purple boxes decreased. Though sometimes categories in the DC budget grow and shrink because functions get shifted from one to another, so it can be tricky to really understand increase and decrease numbers without delving into the budget deeply.

What do you notice in the budget?

And if you make a better treemap using a tool without some of the limitations of the Google one, or make a treemap for another area jurisdiction's budget, let us know at

Thanks to Sandra Moscoso for the tip.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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When I hover my cursor over a category on the right side, I can see the full name pop up - but it's behind all of the other boxes, so I can't fully read it. And for the boxes on the left side, I can't read it at all (it's behind all of the boxes).

Is this just my browser? I'm in Chrome.

by Alex B. on Mar 8, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

@Alex, are you using a desktop or smart device? Not sure if it makes a difference but I'm using my desktop (chrome) and all the names w/in the box pop up fine.

by HogWash on Mar 8, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

It works for me in IE, Firefox and Chrome, but I did see that problem in Opera.

by selxic on Mar 8, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

Interestingly, I did not see that behavior after posting my comment, but it did return after refreshing the page.

by selxic on Mar 8, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

Hogwash: desktop.

by Alex B. on Mar 8, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Alex cursed me. It was working in Safari, but the moment I read his comment I am getting the same behavior.

I am pretty sure in Arlington the equlivant to the DGS is the largest employer, not sure about budget size. Education (or lack thereof) is still the biggest element.

If anything, the budget does show the "State" burdens of medicare, medicaid, etc clearly.

by charlie on Mar 8, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

DC funds to DC Water on top of the huge rates we're starting to pay?

DC Lottery Board jumps out. Are we still losing money on the DC lottery or is it about breaking even now so it's purpose is to provide employment for the lottery board? I'd love to hear we're actually making some money off the lottery.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 8, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

Wait. Is the WMATA subsidy really the same size as the Lottery Board's budget?

by andrew on Mar 8, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

NOT happy that the amount spent on the ballpark is equal to that of DDOT!

So much for bikelanes taking money from other more important things.

by xmal on Mar 8, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

We spend more repaying debt than we do on cops.

by Gavin on Mar 8, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

I'm getting a similar problem to what Alex described, only mirrored -- I'm unable to get the full name on some of the right-side agencies (especially the smaller ones and the ones in the bottom right), but the ones on the left show up fine. I'm using a very old version of IE on a desktop.

by cminus on Mar 8, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

So, when I look at it on the main page, it works fine.

When I click on the article itself the graph repeats Alex's behavior.

Safari 5.

In terms of Tom's question, I think that section represent "funds" which means dedidicated funding streams. So that includes the user fees?

by charlie on Mar 8, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

Thanks. I did this as a quick and dirty example of what could be done. The best thing to do would be to redo this using something like D3...that way you can see and transverse the tree better.

The data can be found here:

Here are better examples from Philadelphia and Spokane

Code for these are on github

By the way if folks are interested in working on projects like this you should check out Code for DC


by Justin Grimes on Mar 8, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris: DC Lottery is still losing money. In FY2012, DC Lottery was allocated $258 million but brought in just under $250 million in revenue.

DC Lottery 2012 budget (page 518) -

DC Lottery 2012 revenues -

by 7r3y3r on Mar 8, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

If the lottery loses money, WHY DO WE HAVE A LOTTERY?!

by MLD on Mar 8, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

@MLD: but after 30 years they're so close to making a profit breaking even! Why deprive them of that success?

by 7r3y3r on Mar 8, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

The lottery does not lose money. That budget is just that: a budget. It shows how much money passes through the organization.

Look at the financial audits:

Consider FY10.

230m in revenues

118m paid out in prizes
44m paid out for operating expenses
66m in operating income

66m then transfered to DC's General Fund.

by Alex B. on Mar 8, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

well, it isn't even a budget. It is just the expense side.

by charlie on Mar 8, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

Somehow, I can't find the huge budget outlay for the war on cars. Can someone help?

by SJE on Mar 8, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

@alex B

Good - I was just going off of what was posted above my comment.

by MLD on Mar 8, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

Welp, I feel stupid. Apologies to all.

by 7r3y3r on Mar 8, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

Interested in whether we have Jim Graham to thank for the DC Lottery now making a profit.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 8, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

Considering how big the interest payments section is, it's a wonder that there was any question at all about what to do with this year's budget surplus.

by Tom Veil on Mar 8, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

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