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Politics & Policy

Want to better understand SF’s bewildering $16B budget? Ask this AI bot

Introducing BudgetGPT, offering answers to all of your $16 billion city-budget questions.

A person sits at a computer with a justice scale icon above the screen. Surrounding them are question marks and dollar signs in a dark, abstract background.
We’re embedding a custom GPT that allows readers to ask budget questions. | Source: AI illustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard

If you’ve never taken the time to pore over San Francisco’s multibillion-dollar annual budget, no one could blame you. 

It is, in technical terms, a doozy. 

Mayor London Breed’s budget proposal, which outlines spending for the city’s dozens of departments and commissions line by line, is a 362-page tome that took months to prepare. It’s an extraordinarily dense document that even the math majors among us might have trouble getting our arms around. 

Because so few humans understand the ins and outs of San Francisco’s roughly $16 billion budget, The Standard is trying an experiment. We’ve trained an AI bot on the mayor’s budget proposal for fiscal years 2025 and 2026.

In the box below, you can try asking your own questions about the budget. 

It’s important to understand what this document can—and cannot—tell us.

The mayor’s budget proposal includes an executive summary outlining her overall priorities, an overview of each department’s mission and budgeted spending, details about the city’s various revenue streams, and information about debt and capital spending.

While it provides a high-level view of spending priorities, it does not get into the policy weeds and may not capture the entirety of local government operations. For example, it can’t tell you what individual city employees earn—for that, you can check out this database—and only has information on agencies that receive funding.  

Here are some sample questions our BudgetGPT can answer:

  • Which department is getting the largest budget cut?
  • How many employees does the Department of Public Health have?
  • What does the Department on the Status of Women do? 
  • How is performance measured at the Human Rights Commission?
  • Why is the mayor increasing the police budget?
  • Did sales tax revenue increase or decrease, and why? 

Here are some examples of questions our tool may get wrong. Because the source document only covers the city budget, the bot can’t reliably answer questions outside the scope of the budget proposal.

  • How much does Mayor London Breed earn?
  • How many total departments and commissions does San Francisco have?
  • How do I pay my parking ticket?

We spent time testing this tool with our own questions, but can’t guarantee accuracy. If you would like to fact-check an answer or check the source material yourself, try asking the bot to share a specific page where they found the information. 

Have fun! As always, we’re happy to hear your feedback at

Annie Gaus can be reached at