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SCS Computing Facilities Support Charges: Adjustments, Transfers and Refunds Policy

Purpose

This statement sets forth policy for the transferring and refunding of incurred computer support charges from one expenditure cost center to another.

Applicability

This policy applies to all computer support services provided by SCS Computing Facilities in support of sponsored programs, federal, state and private.

General Background Information

A cost transfer is any adjustment or transfer of expenditures to/from an externally funded contract or grant. Historically, computer support service adjustments and cost transfers are made by journal entry to facilitate proper distribution of support charges across the appropriate research projects of SCS faculty and researchers. Although charging correct user and machine accounts at the time of incurrence is the expected methodology, invalid accounts are sometimes used. Diligent review of monthly computer support charges and timely communication between principal investigators and departmental administrators should prevent the necessity for transfers; however, under certain circumstances adjustments may be necessary. Thus, if a machine or user is charged to an invalid Oracle string, a transfer to the correct charge center will be needed. The Carnegie Mellon Cost Transfer Policy for Sponsored Programs mandates that any transfers or adjustments to sponsored projects be processed within 90 days from the original transaction date. Thus, any adjustments to or from a sponsored project involving computer support charges must occur within 90 days of the original charge. Once 90 days have passed, resolution will require significant additional approval and the costs being charged to a non-research account such as departmental E&GO or faculty discretionary accounts. This university-wide policy has been in effect since 1994 and is a primary criterion used by federal regulators in assessing the adequacy of Carnegie Mellon's administration of federally sponsored programs.

Transfers and Adjustments

Effective July 1, 2006, SCS Computing Facilities is implementing new procedures for adjustments, transfers and refunds of computer support service charges. These procedures will require all transfers and adjustments to be processed within 60 days of the original charge to ensure compliance with the university imposed requirement of 90 days. To facilitate meeting the 60 day deadline, additional notifications will be issued. Beginning July 1, 2006, any change in support coverage including additions and/or deletions of machines or users and revisions to the service levels currently provided, will be communicated to the parties responsible for the project/task/award. Generally, this would include the respective Principal Investigator(s) (PI) and their administrative support member. Thus, the parties in charge of the accounts will be informed of all changes to computer support services via email confirmation. This will help to facilitate timely recognition of potential instances wherein adjustments and transfers might otherwise be required. In addition, advance warnings of upcoming expiration dates of Oracle strings to which support services are currently being charged, will be sent to both the PI and the department administrator 45 days prior to the charge center's expiration date. Advance planning of appropriate charge centers coupled with timely communication of anticipated service changes can markedly reduce the incurrence of improperly applied support charges. When requesting changes in computer support service, the actual service change request must be issued from the PI in either an email or in a signed hardcopy format. Additional information required includes:
  • Complete user and machine identification
  • A detailed description of the service change requested
  • The beginning date at which the service will be changed
  • A valid Oracle account string if the revision involves an anticipated change in support charge allocation.
All requests for changes in service should be sent to help+costing@cs.cmu.edu.

Refunds

All refund requests must be made within 30 days of the original charge, in order to timely research and process the refund. Under no circumstances will refund requests will be accepted after 90 days of the original charge. Again, timely review of monthly service charges should preclude the occurrence of refund request denials.

All refund requests must be preceded by a prior submitted service change request described above which initially requested the change. In cases where no service change request had been received, requested service revisions will be implemented once the necessary information is received. Refunds would then be applicable only to related service costs charged in subsequent months. Information required for refund requests includes:

  • The specific user or machine ID
  • the date the user left or the machine was retired
  • the requester and the approver of the service change
  • the refund totals requested
Change requests must be received before the actual start of the month in order to qualify for a refund that month. For example, refunds for services charged in May can only be issued if the request to change the service was received prior to the official cutoff for April's business. For details of cutoff dates regarding monthly closings, please refer to the month-end processing timeline information at www.cmu.edu/finance/systems

Limbo Charges

Beginning July 1, 2006, all monthly user and machine support charges which fail to validate during the monthly closing cycle will be flagged for back charging. Currently, such charges are classified as limbo charges, and are not included in the monthly billing totals for services rendered. They do, however, represent actual support services provided for which a correct charge code was not available. Thus, follow-up resolution that results in identification of the proper and valid account/charge string to which the charges should be applied, will be required within 45 days.

When a limbo charge occurs, PI's and their associated administrative staff will receive a series of notifications of the failed charges via email. These Delinquent Notices will be run three times a month as per the following schedule:

  • 1st notice - issued the 1st business day after the Monthly Journal Entry (JE) has been accepted; lists the particular charges which have gone into limbo status and informs that a valid Oracle account string is needed for the services to continue, and requests such to be provided at that time.
  • 2nd notice - issued the 10th business day of the month to prompt resolution before end of the current monthly cycle. This notice and those which follow would include an updated list of only those charges still remaining delinquent that have not been resolved after issuance of each subsequent notification.
  • 3rd notice - issued the 15th business day of the month, reminding that a valid account string is still required and that the current monthly accounting cycle is nearing closing. Again, this notice would cite only the delinquent charges which remain unresolved since the prior two notices.
  • Final notice - issued the 2nd business day of the following month in the event that no valid account had been provided in time for the prior month's close. This notification will inform that the charges remain delinquent for the second monthly close and that resolution is expected. It will also state that if resolution is not made by 45 days from initial occurrence of the limbo charge, penalty fees will be applied and possible suspension of services may occur.

The above schedule assumes charges are identified as delinquent (limbo) after the month-end JE run. For accounts which become delinquent during the month, the 1st notice will be issued upon realization of the failed charge and subsequent notices will be sent on the same time intervals as described above, namely ten and fifteen business days post identification of the delinquency.

We strongly believe that timely review of the computer support cost statements prompted by the advance warning notices of soon-to-expire cost centers, in addition to numerous communications throughout the 45 day resolution period, should help to significantly reduce the incurrence of limbo charges.

Limbo Back Charges

Beginning July 1, 2006, SCS Computing facilities will begin to back charge for limbo charges, as these charges represent actual services rendered for which valid Oracle account strings were not provided. Once a valid account is identified, this account will be charged with applicable limbo charges as of July 1st, along with any charges for future services going forward. In the case that a valid account string was not obtained throughout the notification process detailed above, the unresolved service charges will be charged to a GL account applicable to the particular project in question. This GL default account will be obtained from the department in which the project is being administered, and will also be used for any future service charges for that particular project until a valid GM account string is obtained.