Plans to Spend / Projections / Forecasting
A Plan to Spend (PTS, also known as projections or forecasting) is a projection of how the budgeted award dollars are targeted to be spent on a month-to-month basis, while simultaneously monitoring the entire award budget. It should be updated to reflect the Principal Investigator’s (PI’s) most current thinking about possible spending scenarios.
Upon rollout of the integrated systems for each Tufts unit, Local Research Administrators (LRAs) must complete and maintain PTS in Axiom for all active awards. Axiom uses PTS to generate reporting at the award level and at aggregated levels (PI, Department, School). The system is used for forecasting and informs the budgeting process, providing visibility into both sponsored and hard money funds. Award budgets for obligated and anticipated periods, compensation projections, and transactions/actuals all populate automatically based on the information from Research Administration System (RAS) and PeopleSoft.
Please note that forecasting is a function different and distinct from budgeting and accounting, which must be completed through other systems/workflows. Because Axiom is a forecasting tool, it does not support actions such as changes in labor distribution or reallocation of budget between the expense categories.
PTS must be completed for all categories of costs. While the PIs pay particular attention to personnel effort charged to their awards, LRAs, as well as school/center and university leadership need the full forecast for error checks, re-budgeting in exclusion categories, and anticipating the F&A recovery. Accurate projections help anticipate and manage potential gaps in personnel funding. If PTS is not completed, PI dashboards will be missing non-compensation projections and may have inaccurate compensation forecasts.
Within 30 days from the award setup LRAs should complete the award setup in Axiom so there is a projection against which actuals can post once the first month of expenses flows in. This includes turning off pre-planned labor distribution after the project end date and entering non-compensation projections for the full project period. If these steps are not completed, the award will be showing as overspent. To move personnel off the award to “To Be Determined” (TBD) grants as of the award end date, LRAs partner with the Budget Center representative for their school/center. PTS on active grants combined with TBD grants roll up to inform school forecasts and annual budgets.
PTS should include both obligated and anticipated periods. Anticipated dollars should be included in the New Award Budget Tool transaction. Forecasting is completed for all budget years in order to provide the PI with a complete portfolio view.
Future years PTS are not expected to be as detailed as the PTS for the current budget year, and can consist of projections by budget categories without further detail. Detailed projections for all expenses in all years are recommended for awards where budgets reallocations are not allowed or where approval from sponsor is difficult to obtain, such as training awards.
Compensation projections should be maintained mostly through the labor distribution system/eServe, and only the following updates need to be made in Axiom Position Management:
- Within-month changes beyond the timely processing capacity of the labor distribution system
- Out-year changes to move compensation to TBD awards and hard money accounts (with Budget Center advice as needed).
Updating PTS and sharing with the PI
Generally, the forecasts against actuals should be updated monthly (within the constraints of staffing and deadlines) with personnel updated additionally as needed. June and July PTS can be completed in August due to the competing priorities of year-end fiscal close.
Real-time forecasting of personnel and other direct expenses must be shared with the PIs no less frequently than quarterly. Regular conversations with the PI are recommended to review the PTS for all awards in their portfolio.
Variance between the budget and the forecast
PTS includes compensation and non-compensation projections compared against budgeted items, with variances from the budget calculated. Some variance between the forecast and the budget is acceptable and should be monitored by the percent of the budget rather than the amount of the variance. The following actions are recommended if a variance greater than 10% of the budget category, or, in the case of small awards, of the award budget:
- Check that the projections are accurate and understand what is causing the variance. In addition to mistakes, it is possible that subcontract payments, summer supplements, cost transfers or the budget reductions are the reasons for the variance.
- Discuss with the PI the scenarios to align future expenses with the available budget.
- Check the award terms for allowability of potential changes; review if formal approval is required for re-budgets. Consult with your supervisor, OVPR Pre-Award, and/or Post-Award as necessary.