General Guidelines for Budgeting


Budget Acronyms and Terms:
Full Title
ARC Accounting and Reporting at Columbia
Budget Tool
Online budgeting system
Current Estimated Budget
Consolidated Operating Budget
Indirect Cost Recoveries
Pivot Tables
Multidimensional views of data on a spreadsheet
Natural Account
5-digit number assigned to a type of expense or revenue
Year to Date
Financial Reports:
ARC is the University’s web-based financial system, and includes modules for general accounting, procurement, and project costing (tracking financial information over a project life). The ARC Portal provides access to an array of management reports. The two most commonly used reports at LDEO are
  • Sponsored Project Financial Summary
  • Non-sponsored Project Financial Summary
    • Illustrates budgets, actuals, and encumbrance activity by fiscal period. These reports are generated to reflect a single project. 


Consolidated Operating Budget (COB) Report
A COB report is chosen to produce an Project Detail File, which is an all inclusive report of financial activities that can be run for any division depending on a staff members security access and is the foundation for most financial analysis performed at LDEO. The COB depicts YTD expenses, previous YTD expenses for the same period, year-end expenses for the previous closed fiscal year, two subsequent fiscal year budgets, subcodes, transaction descriptions, division IDs, etc.
Sponsored Projects:
Existing Awards
  • Make sure to both prorate planned spending based on project start and end dates and apply ICR rates paying attention to subcodes with reduced or no ICR.
Anticipated Awards
  • When estimating spending on anticipated awards, the person developing the budget should review the grant proposals with the project’s Principal Investigator.
  • A budget should be developed only if there is an 85% or greater chance of project funding, which can be compared to historical grant data for reasonableness.
  • Final estimates should be kept conservative and estimates should be prorated for project startups that do not begin on July 1st.

Proxy Accounts:
Proxy Accounts are used within the budget tool to aggregate budgets for anticipated or highly likely awards that have not yet been received or a PIN has not yet been created. Each Division has a proxy project # for sponosred projects and a proxy project # for private grants and contracts.
Executive Summary:
Executive summaries serve as cover pages for budgets in order to provide narratives to accompany budget submissions. They highlight assumptions, describe the programs, and explain variances. 
Forecasting Analyses:
Budget monitoring is an ongoing activity at LDEO. Projections are performed quarterly and require variance explanations by all divisions for the current fiscal year. Quarterly reviews are performed in October, January, April, and July/August. For a complete description of the budget cycle, click here.