Error in % Budget Used for Subcategories

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jbh001
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Error in % Budget Used for Subcategories

Postby jbh001 » Sun Feb 08, 2009 8:21 pm

From the MLS menu bar, navigate to Finance > Budget > Budget Report.

If you have set up any sub categories, for example:

Primary
Primary:Activity Day
Primary:Cub Scouts
Primary:Quarterly Activities & Other

...but have only allocated budget funds to the main category (e.g. Primary), any expenses assigned to the subcategories are not subtracted from the total parent category budget allocation when this report is printed.

For example, say you have allocated $500 to the Primary category above, but have left the subcategories with a $0 budget allocation because you only want to track where the funds are being spent; you don't care how much is spent in each subcategory, only that the total allotted to the parent category is not exceeded. Currently MLS will not deduct the subcategory expenses from the parent category budget allocation for this report.

In our specific situation, the above referenced report showed that Primary had only spent 53% of its allotted budget for 2008. However, when the expenses for the subcategories were manually figured in, Primary had actually spent 134% of its allotted budget.

Obviously MLS is functioning as designed, but it is not functioning as expected. Thus the usefulness of subcategories is greatly limited in MLS unless one wants to go to the trouble of allocating a specific dollar amount to each subcategory. The way MLS currently functions makes it difficult to use subcategories and then also quickly print out a version of the above report so that the organization can see how much of its budget it has used.

I will admit that I am lazy and don't want to go digging thru the MLS help files to see how budget subcategories are supposed to function in tandem with budget allocations. All I know is the the apparent design does not support the expected intuitive function of these features. If I am missing something on how we should be using budget subcategories, budget allocations, and the above referenced Budget Report, please point me in the right direction. Otherwise I'll just chalk this up to another "that's just the way MLS does it, but only the programmers know why."

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Postby greggo » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:17 am

jbh001 wrote:
For example, say you have allocated $500 to the Primary category above, but have left the subcategories with a $0 budget allocation because you only want to track where the funds are being spent; you don't care how much is spent in each subcategory, only that the total allotted to the parent category is not exceeded. Currently MLS will not deduct the subcategory expenses from the parent category budget allocation for this report.


While I agree with you that MLS doesn't work as expected in this regard, I feel I should ask this question.
If you don't care how much is spent in each subcategory, why do you want to track it?

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:06 am

jbh001 wrote:Obviously MLS is functioning as designed, but it is not functioning as expected. Thus the usefulness of subcategories is greatly limited in MLS unless one wants to go to the trouble of allocating a specific dollar amount to each subcategory. The way MLS currently functions makes if difficult to use subcategories and then also quickly print out a version of the above report so that the organization can see how much of its budget it has used.


The phrase "as expected" of course means only that it doesn't work as you expect. You expect to be able to track budget expenses in a category that you aren't willing to attach a budget to. That may make sense to you, but I wouldn't expect that.

You talk of "the trouble of allocating a specific dollar amount to each subcategory." Why is that so hard? The budget categories exist (in my opinion) to help us track expenses against a budget. If there is a budget for these subcategories, it can be entered in less than a minute. That doesn't seem like much trouble. And if there is no budget, then I would wonder what you are tracking expenses against.

jbh001 wrote:I will admit that I am lazy and don't want to go digging thru the MLS help files to see how budget subcategories are supposed to function in tandem with budget allocations. All I know is the the apparent design does not support the expected intuitive function of these features. If I am missing something on how we should be using budget subcategories, budget allocations, and the above referenced Budget Report, please point me in the right direction.


The help files don't give any details on the use of sub-subcategories. There is definitely room for improvement in that area. If the philosophy and best practices for using sub-subcategories were explained clearly, you might still wish for improvement, but wouldn't feel so negatively about how it is implemented.

Here is an example of a way the sub-subcategories could be used, that fits just fine with the way MLS is designed. You could have a Young Men category that is used for expenses shared among the Young Men, and then you could have "Young Men: Deacons", "Young Men: Teachers", and "Young Men: Priests" where you have individual budgets. You give each quorum $500 and allocate another $500 for combined activities. In this scenario, each sub-subcategory would have its own budget that you can track expenses against, and the parent subcategory would have its own budget as well.

In that example, the Young Men categories would all sort together, and you can track each budget allocation against its expenses. On the Edit Budget screen you can see the total allocation for "Young Men" and its subcategories ($2000).

However, even in this scenario I would agree that it would be handy to have an additional report option that would show aggregated expenses and budgets for a subcategory that includes all of its sub-subcategories. If there were such a feature, it would probably work in your proposed scenario as well.

jbh001 wrote:Otherwise I'll just chalk this up to another "that's just the way MLS does it, but only the programmers know why."


I see no reason to criticize the MLS programmers by implying that there are multiple features that only the programmers understand. There are obvious ways to use the feature as designed and implemented, even if you have in your mind an additional way of using it that is not currently supported. Feel free to make a suggestion for the additional functionality you seek through the usual channels.

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Postby jbh001 » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:42 am

Greggo wrote:If you don't care how much is spent in each subcategory, why do you want to track it?
The specific scenario is for Cub Scouts. If we can get an idea on how much is being spend on Cub Scouts, then we can get a better idea about whether Cub Scout Day camp can be funded entirely from the budget without having to to do any fund raising. Granted there are other ways to figure this out, but the Budget Report seemed like a simple solution to accomplish this. It is not.

Specifically, the Primary could glance at this report and say "We don't have enough budget left to cover Day Camp; we'll have to ask the parents to contribute." Or "We still have a lot of unused budget. We don't need any parent contributions for Day Camp this year."

Another scenario would be, "Wow, Activity Day Girls are outspending the Cub Scouts 3 to 1. Why is that so?"

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Postby russellhltn » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:56 am

I think what's being asked for is a subtotal for each budget category. I could see that as a good option to have.
Have you searched the Wiki?
Try using a Google search by adding "site:tech.lds.org/wiki" to the search criteria.

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Postby jbh001 » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:01 am

Alan_Brown wrote:The phrase "as expected" of course means only that it doesn't work as you expect. You expect to be able to track budget expenses in a category that you aren't willing to attach a budget to. That may make sense to you, but I wouldn't expect that.
My expectation comes from my use of Quicken financial software. Granted I have abandoned using it because they sunset my version. But I recall being able to set up a category (e.g. Vehicles) assign a budget amount to it, and then set up subcategories without having to allocate specific budgets to those subcategories (e.g. Vehicles:insurance, Vehicles:fuel; Vehicles:maintenance, etc.). Perhaps my memory is faulty on how Quicken handled this. However, that is the basis of my expectation.

If a subcategory has a blank budget allocation, expenses assigned to it should be computed against the nearest parent category's budget allocation in reports, IMO.

Unless I am missing something, apparently one should not be using subcategories for tracking purposes in MLS unless one wants to assign a budget amount to that subcategory. That method definately has its advantages (especially in discouraging the creation of too many subcategories), but it also has its disadvantages.

Alan_Brown wrote:However, even in this scenario I would agree that it would be handy to have an additional report option that would show aggregated expenses and budgets for a subcategory that includes all of its sub-subcategories. If there were such a feature, it would probably work in your proposed scenario as well.
I think you described the functionality I am expecting from the Budget Report better and clearer than I have. Thanks.

Alan_Brown wrote:If the philosophy and best practices for using sub-subcategories were explained clearly, you might still wish for improvement, but wouldn't feel so negatively about how it is implemented.
Agreed. I'm sorry this has come across as negative. I am just frustrated that there still is no simplier way to handle this within MLS. The Budget Report *almost* accomplishes this, but not without tweaking. (Fortunately that frustation only comes around once or twice a year.) :)

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Postby mfmohlma » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:41 am

RussellHltn wrote:I think what's being asked for is a subtotal for each budget category. I could see that as a good option to have.


This report already exists. It just uses a lot of paper. :) The budget report can be printed out with the options of "Summary by Sub-category" and "Details by Sub-category". The sub-total at the bottom of these sheets should contain the numbers you're looking for.

These are probably the sheets you want to be handing to the budget "owners" anyway. The default printout of "Summary by Category" is really only useful for the bishopric and clerks.

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Postby aebrown » Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:04 pm

oregonmatt wrote:This report already exists. It just uses a lot of paper. :) The budget report can be printed out with the options of "Summary by Sub-category" and "Details by Sub-category". The sub-total at the bottom of these sheets should contain the numbers you're looking for.

These are probably the sheets you want to be handing to the budget "owners" anyway. The default printout of "Summary by Category" is really only useful for the bishopric and clerks.


Just to clarify, you're confusing options from the Income and Expense Report (Summary/Details by Sub-category) as if they are on the Budget Report (simply "Summary" and "Details").

But you do have an interesting suggestion. Using the Budget Report, you can easily select a subcategory with its sub-subcategories. When you check a subcategory, it automatically checks the sub-subcategories under it. The totals at the bottom of the Summary report will be the aggregate totals.

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Postby mfmohlma » Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:34 pm

Alan_Brown wrote:Just to clarify, you're confusing options from the Income and Expense Report (Summary/Details by Sub-category) as if they are on the Budget Report (simply "Summary" and "Details").


Quite possibly. I've only been doing this since October and haven't quite committed all of the options to memory. :)

Alan_Brown wrote:But you do have an interesting suggestion. Using the Budget Report, you can easily select a subcategory with its sub-subcategories. When you check a subcategory, it automatically checks the sub-subcategories under it. The totals at the bottom of the Summary report will be the aggregate totals.


That's what I was driving at. Checking a sub-category automatically selects the sub-subcategories which makes for a nice subtotal at the bottom. Now that you make the distinction between the Budget Report and the Income and Expense Report, it appears that I've been using the I&E Report. I'll have to go back and check...

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Postby jbh001 » Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:30 pm

I tested this out with the "Test" ward.
I set a total budget of $1000.
I then added a "Primary" category, and then added a "Cub Scouts" subcategory under it.
I then allocated $900 to the "Activities" category and $100 to the "Primary" category.
I then created a $50 expense and assigned it to the "Primary" category.
I then created a $100 expense and assigned it to the "Cub Scouts" subcategory.
The resulting window shows that "Primary has only used 50% of their budget allocation.

Image

However, when you select the "Primary" category and its subcategories, and then click the Preview button, this is the result:

Image

My expectation is that the first screen shot would show (somehow) that Primary had used 150% of its budget allocation. The second screen shot does a better job of communicating this.

But this works sufficiently well as it. The last time I poked around in MLS trying to figure this out was at least a year or two ago (I think). And I don't recall being able to get the results that appear in the second screen shot.
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