CUBS Concerns

Discuss questions around local unit policies for budgeting, reconciling, etc. This forum should not contain specific financial or membership information.
russellhltn
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#21

Post by russellhltn »

crislapi wrote:A ward going negative does not hit the stake budget, other ward budgets, or any surpluses. It only hits the future ward budget. All checks will still be covered, of course,
So, is there a downside to being in the red? I've worked with people in the past who don't care what the balance is as long as they can write checks and they'll be covered.
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aebrown
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#22

Post by aebrown »

mlh78 wrote:I don't understand why it won't include a feature to allow dollar amount allocations. I am pretty sure that the existing ward budget allocation tool in MLS allows this (though I found it cumbersome and never used it). What is the downside?
The downside is that it is yet another feature for both the CUBS and the MLS developers to implement, when stakes have already been given quite a bit of flexibility.

If a particular stake determines that fixed dollar amount budgeting is best, then they can do that quite simply. All they do is set every budget allocation number to 0. That way all budget money will come to the stake. At the beginning of each quarter, they send a check to each ward for whatever amount the stake president has chosen. That seems to me to be a much simpler solution than trying to jigger the percentages every quarter to try to get a specific dollar amount.
mlh78 wrote:Although I relish the opportunity to create a fancy spreadsheet to work out these calculations each quarter, this could be a real burden on clerk's who do not share my enthusiasm for numbers. I also think that requiring the stake to back into a dollar amount allocation, though doable, is a barrier to the Stake President exercising discretion in allocating the budget.
It's only a burden if a stake wants to control budget dollar amounts tightly. But if you just work with the new system (instead of trying to force it to work like the old system), life will be much easier.

I plan to propose to my stake president a very simple plan (which is already quite similar to what we are doing anyway). We will determine a percentage to take from the wards. Suppose it is 20%. Then we will set all the budget allocation numbers for each ward in each category to 80%. We're done. We'll monitor how each ward is doing, of course, but their budget allocation will be tied directly to their attendance figures, which is ultimately what the stake as a whole experiences. So it's entirely appropriate that the wards experience that as well.
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aebrown
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#23

Post by aebrown »

RussellHltn wrote:So, is there a downside to being in the red? I've worked with people in the past who don't care what the balance is as long as they can write checks and they'll be covered.
From what I understand, the stake president still has responsibility for how he manages that issue for particular wards. If the stake as a whole goes in the red, then the stake president gets to answer to higher authorities, but if the stake as whole stays in the black, no one will question him.
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#24

Post by russellhltn »

When this happened, the SP threatened to take away the checkbook. But this was back when we had physical checkbooks.

I think it would be nice if MLS stopped writing budget checks if the balance went negative.
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mlh78
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#25

Post by mlh78 »

Alan_Brown wrote:
It's only a burden if a stake wants to control budget dollar amounts tightly. But if you just work with the new system (instead of trying to force it to work like the old system), life will be much easier.

The problem is that for many of our units, attendance-based allocations fail to properly reflect the needs of the units. I can't imagine that we are unique in this respect.

Also, in my experience, units budget on an annual basis. The new system requires wards using an annual budget to project their allocation for the entire year and hope for the best. Generally, ward's are not as able to absorb allocation fluctuations as the stake is (which can maintain a cushion to smooth out the variations). I think the units appreciate a guaranteed allocation for the year.
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aebrown
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#26

Post by aebrown »

mlh78 wrote:The problem is that for many of our units, attendance-based allocations fail to properly reflect the needs of the units. I can't imagine that we are unique in this respect.
It works well for our stake, but I wouldn't doubt that other units may need another approach.
mlh78 wrote:Also, in my experience, units budget on an annual basis. The new system requires wards using an annual budget to project their allocation for the entire year and hope for the best. Generally, ward's are not as able to absorb allocation fluctuations as the stake is (which can maintain a cushion to smooth out the variations). I think the units appreciate a guaranteed allocation for the year.
All units are supposed to budget on an annual basis. You're right that either the wards or the stake have to absorb the quarterly fluctuations that will occur, and it may well be true that the stake will more easily be able to do this.

But during my 5-year stint as a ward financial clerk a few years back, we received quarterly allocations from the stake, and although it required some estimation, and some contingency planning, everything always worked out fine. We had a reasonably stable membership, so the fluctuations were small. In some wards with a more transient membership, that could be a much bigger challenge.

Nonetheless, as I indicated previously, if a stake wants to guarantee wards an annual allocation, the CUBS system will allow them to do so write checks to the wards for any amounts they choose. The stake will most likely not be able to deliver the full amount at the beginning of the year to all the wards, but as long as the total is guaranteed, delivering one fourth of the allocation each quarter shouldn't have any effect on how wards operate.
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andsam98
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#27

Post by andsam98 »

If wards are allocated budget funds as a percentage of their attendance, I can see it being a huge temptation for wards to "bump up" their attendance figures knowing it will get them more money. Right now a clerk completes the quarterly report without regard to the attendance because they know they are going to get the allocation of funds from the stake. But if the clerk knows their budget allocation is directly tied to the number they enter, adding 5, 10, or 15 to the attendance total might not set off any flags but it would get them a few extra dollars each quarter.

I understand that the whole idea is to have more equality but it could also get out of hand quite easily. If the stake can allocate fixed dollar amounts then wards would not be tempted to overstate their attendance numbers. In my opinion, allocating based on percentages takes away some of the stake president's control of the unit budgets.
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#28

Post by crislapi »

mlh78 wrote:I don't understand why it won't include a feature to allow dollar amount allocations... What is the downside?
I imagine the main problem with fixed amounts is that the stake can't guarantee delivery of a fixed budget amount. As of January 1, you can estimate 2 disbursements from quarterly reports, but the second half of the year is unknown. Perhaps some of your stakes/wards are more stable than mine and perhaps you do better at estimating the yearly budget than we had in the past, but just as I came into the stake the stake as a whole had overspent the budget by quite a large amount. However, not a single ward went over their allotted budget. The problem was that attendance took an unanticipated dive during the year, drastically reducing the disbursements we received. The clerks at the time didn't catch this and the result was a nice letter to the stake president. This approach "covers your back" by never promising the wards money it can't deliver.

If you are good at estimating, I think you could still give your wards a good estimate of what their total disbursements for the year will be and you'll be close enough for them to plan the year with. If you insist on them receiving an exact amount, then following Alan_Brown's suggestion of setting all percentages to 0 and writing checks is the easiest solution.
mlh78 wrote:The problem is that for many of our units, attendance-based allocations fail to properly reflect the needs of the units. I can't imagine that we are unique in this respect.

Also, in my experience, units budget on an annual basis. The new system requires wards using an annual budget to project their allocation for the entire year and hope for the best. Generally, ward's are not as able to absorb allocation fluctuations as the stake is (which can maintain a cushion to smooth out the variations). I think the units appreciate a guaranteed allocation for the year.
Again, I think if you are good at estimating the amount of money you will receive for the entire year (and it sounds like you are - this is the current approach) you could still give your wards an idea of what the disbursement totals for the year will be. Your estimate and the actual shouldn't be too far off. If you need to give them an exact amount, tell them the amount to plan on, set the disbursement percentages to 0 and cut them checks quarterly until they have received the total you wish for them to receive.

I agree that a guaranteed amount for the year is great, but as I stated above, we really can't guarantee with any more certainty right now the amount - we can tell them to expect a certain amount, and if the disbursements go as expected, we don't have to adjust their budget. However, if attendance drops and disbursements are less than expected, you still have to either reduce their current budgets or take the hit at the stake level.
buster9750 wrote:If wards are allocated budget funds as a percentage of their attendance, I can see it being a huge temptation for wards to "bump up" their attendance figures knowing it will get them more money... But if the clerk knows their budget allocation is directly tied to the number they enter, adding 5, 10, or 15 to the attendance total might not set off any flags but it would get them a few extra dollars each quarter.

I understand that the whole idea is to have more equality but it could also get out of hand quite easily. If the stake can allocate fixed dollar amounts then wards would not be tempted to overstate their attendance numbers. In my opinion, allocating based on percentages takes away some of the stake president's control of the unit budgets.
While I don't doubt their is potential for the abuse you mention, I will naively state that I think most clerks try to fulfill their callings honestly. I don't expect widespread abuse. I think Alan_Brown's suggestion makes fixed-dollar amount budgets very feasible and simple. If a stake chooses to stay with fixed-dollar budgets, it would be easy enough to do.
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#29

Post by crislapi »

RussellHltn wrote:When this happened, the SP threatened to take away the checkbook. But this was back when we had physical checkbooks.

I think it would be nice if MLS stopped writing budget checks if the balance went negative.
Hmmm. There's a good feature request! Allow the stake MLS to disable check printing for specific wards! In the meantime you could still take the checks...

Of course, the downside is it's the members who should be receiving reimbursements who are being punished. I wouldn't expect members to have to start paying out of pocket because the ward doesn't know how to manage expenses. Involved financial clerks and intervention by the SP would hopefully curb this.

This reminds me of two more nice features about the switch that hopefully will help. First, the SFS will be delivered electronically to the stake in PDF format, I assume similar to the CUFS. This means it arrives quicker and directly to you, allowing you to keep on top of ward expenses.

Second, and this is the one I hope I heard correctly, ward expenses will automatically be entered as expenses in the stake MLS. I assume this means that each ward will automatically exist as a sub category in your budget, and disbursements will automatically show up. That way you can monitor the status of the budget real time. Again, if i heard correctly, the finances are processed every time a send/receive is done. So the stake MLS shows real-time ward budget status. I think I'm going to check in on this to make sure...

I should clarify that "real-time" probably more realistically means a day or two behind. Better than the month it's been, though!
russellhltn
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#30

Post by russellhltn »

crislapi wrote:Hmmm. There's a good feature request! Allow the stake MSL to disable check printing for specific wards!
I'd settle for simply having MLS not print checks that are more then the remaining balance.

Not so much in the church, but I've seen people that really don't seem to mind a "rug dance" in front of their superiour. If getting yelled at by the boss is what it takes to get more the spend, they'll do it. It doesn't bother them. But if they knew the checks stopped - well, that's a different story. (Although one could always use the emergency check writing procedure....)
crislapi wrote:So the stake MLS shows real-time ward budget status.
That's one of the questions I had - if the stake could still see the ward's spending.
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