CERES: Complete a Budget


Complete a Budget

Note: The attachments contain a job aid related to this article.

After you create a funding proposal, select a sponsor, and click Save on the initial page of the funding proposal SmartForm, CERES automatically creates a primary sponsor budget. Only users with the Salary Access role can view and edit budgets and budget attachments, export budgets, and see salary information. If your role requires salary access and you do not have the appropriate permissions in CERES, submit a request for access. 

If the funding proposal will be submitted to a federal sponsor via system-to-system, ensure the funding proposal and budget are complete prior to creating the SF424. Information from the funding proposal and budget auto-populate the SF424 pages. Each time the Create-Update SF424 activity is used, it overrides the fields in the SF424 with the information in the funding proposal and budget. If changes are needed, update the funding proposal or budget first, and then execute the Create-Update SF424 activity. 

To fill out budgets for a proposal

  1. On the funding proposal workspace, navigate to the Budgets tab and click the name of the primary sponsor budget.
  2. On the budget workspace, click Edit Budget.
  3. On the first page of the budget SmartForm, enter or update the general budget information, including the:
    • Option to enter non-standard F&A cost base and rates

Note: Select standard F&A cost bases for on-campus research, instruction/training, and other sponsored activity project types. The project type is derived from the purpose indicated earlier on the funding proposal. For all other project types, and those which are off-campus, non-standard rates should be used.

If the F&A is not standard, such as the sponsor does not allow F&A or limits the amounts, select No to the Does this budget use the standard on campus indirect cost bases and rates question. Click the down arrow to select the appropriate F&A Cost Base and enter the F&A rate for each project period. The RA must submit a request to SR for an F&A waiver.

Note: To request an F&A waiver, the RA must submit a request via Ancillary Review. Select F&A Waiver as the ancillary review type and Anc Rvw-F&A Waiver as the organization. 

  • Choice of cost categories for which to complete detailed budget tables. If Yes is selected for Travel or Trainee costs, additional Financials pages populate in the Left Navigator for the RA to supply detailed information.
  • The Include in consolidated budgets question determines whether the costs outlined in this budget are included or excluded from the total proposal budget displayed in the Financials tab of the funding proposal workspace.

Example: You may not want to consolidate a non-mandatory cost share budget that is for internal purposes only and will not be sent to the sponsor.

  • Salary cap (If the default is changed, the system updates the monthly salary cap when you save the page.)
  • To avoid CERES generating a cost share budget only for over-the-cap salary, override the individual investigators pre-loaded salary with the annualized salary cap. 
    • Inflation rates

When done, click Continue.

  1. On the Personnel Cost Definition page, add personnel.
    1. To view or add personnel on the funding proposal, click the Go to additional personnel on funding proposal link.
    2. Click Import Proposal Personnel to import the PI and all NU personnel who were added to the funding proposal’s Personnel page as “Senior/Key person on the proposal” or as “Other personnel.”
    3. To add personnel individually or “Staff Member To Be Determined” personnel, click Add, and complete the form. Select their role, appointment, whether to budget summer and academic effort separately, and their annualized salary.


  • Entering personnel on the funding proposal and importing them auto-populates more information than adding them manually.
  • For incoming faculty whose appointments have not yet started, please contact the Sponsored Research Business Systems & Operations team at osr-info@northwestern.edu. For staff members who are truly TBD, simply select “Staff Member To Be Determined”.
  • Click Update next to a staff members name to check or update their information, if needed. Pre-loaded salary and appointment length information is automatically added.


  • Salaries for investigators are loaded from MyHR and annualized to standardize rates across all appointment types and lengths, prior to effort month calculations on the budget. RAs will only need to make an update if using a future salary that is not yest in CERES. In this case, enter the 12-month annualized amount so the month rate will calculate correctly. CERES divides the annualized salary by 12.
  • If the investigators salary is over the salary cap, override the individual investigators pre-loaded salary with the annualized salary cap in this form. This avoids the need for a cost share budget only for over-the-cap salary. 
  1. When done, click Continue.
  1. On the Personnel Costs page, click Edit.
  2. In each personnel cost row, type the planned effort months and salary requested months on the project.


  • Effort Mos: The total number of effort months for this investigator, including any cost shared effort months.
  • Sal Req Mos: (Salary Requested Months) The number of effort months for which salary is being requested from the sponsor.
  • If the salary requested for any person is less than their projected effort (Effort Mos. > Sal Req Mos.), when you save the budget, the budget workspace alerts the RA to create a cost share budget to show how the additional funds will be provided. Review the Create a Cost Share Budget section for more information.
  • RAs can budget a person’s effort for the entire calendar year or distribute it between summer and academic months by selecting Yes to the “Budget summer and academic effort separately?” question on the Personnel Cost Definition page. 
  • Click the push arrows at the right of a budget period column to replicate values in successive periods.
  1. Modify the defaults for the fringe benefit rate and the base salary if appropriate. To edit a person's base salary, click their name at the left, and edit the Annualized salary field in the form that appears.


  • When adding TBD Graduate students to the budget, RAs will need to manually edit the fringe benefit rate to use the graduate student rate, since CERES defaults to the faculty/staff rate.
  • The system does not blend fringe rates for future years. Departments who prefer to budget to that level of specificity should manually override the system-calculated fringe benefit amounts in future years.
  • Do not adjust the amount to reflect only the investigators 9-month salary rate. This will incorrectly adjust the calculations.
  1. When satisfied with your entries, click the Save button to update the figures in the Totals view of the budget tables.
  2. To view all rates and totals (with effort and salary requested represented as both months and percentages), click Show Effort.

Note: Budget viewers as well as editors can do this.

  1. When done specifying personnel costs, click Continue.
  2. If you selected Yes to include detailed budget tables on the General Budget Information page for either Travel or Trainee costs, additional financial tabs populate in the Left Navigator. Complete the definition and costs tables for each of them as you just did for personnel costs. When done, click Continue.
  3. On the General Cost Definition page, add line items for general costs not accounted for on detailed budget tables. Click Add, select the general cost type from the drop-down list, add the amount for the item, and enter a description. Click OK.

Click Continue once you have added all the general costs.

  • For items that you indicate should not have inflation applied, the amounts can be edited directly on the General Costs page. The amounts for the line item can be edited in each period instead of being automatically calculated with inflation.
  • The description field validates based on the type of general cost added to the budget. Only the general cost type “Equipment” requires a description to be ended. While not all general cost types require a description, it may be helpful to enter one for later reference.
  1. When done, click Continue.
  2. The general costs added on the General Cost Definition page populate on the General Costs page.
  • If inflation is applied, the amounts increase by the appropriate amount each period. The amounts are not editable on the General Costs page. Return to the General Cost Definition page to edit the cost.
  • If inflation is not applied, the amounts for that item are editable by period.
  1. The F&A Cost Overrides page reports the cost-base standard being used to calculate the F&A amount for this budget. It also reports for which categories, if any, that standard will be overridden. Only SR Specialists can change these settings. For details on how these settings work, click the Help icon.
  2. On the Attachments page of the budget, click Add to attach any supporting documents. Budget attachments cannot be viewed by users without Salary Access permissions.
  3. When satisfied with all your budget entries and attachments, click Finish.

You are returned to the budget workspace. You can continue to edit the budget until you submit it for Department Review. The Financials tab on the budget workspace now shows period and cumulative totals for the budget you have completed.

  • If you did not select detailed budget tables for any cost categories, these costs are found in the General budget line item on the Financials tab.
  • If you selected detailed budget tables for any cost categories, these costs are found in their respective budget line items on the Financials tab.


Budget FAQ's

Question Answer

Q: What budget types will SmartForms be used for?


A: Sponsor, Cost Sharing, Subaward

Q: I just tried to export my budget, but it didn't seem to work, is there a trick to this?

A: It should appear in the history tab and will save it in the default downloads folder set for your browser.

Q: How can I change the budget periods?

A: On the Funding Proposal on the "Funding Periods and Key Dates" section, select "Update Periods" on question 7.

Q: How do I budget investigators with 9-month appointments? How can I list more than one responsible department?

A: Salaries for investigators are loaded from MyHR and annualized to standardize rates across all appointment types and lengths, prior to effort month calculations on the budget.  See the CERES job aid Complete a Budget for more information on how to budget a person's effort for the entire calendar year or distribute between summer and academic months.

There is only one responsible department. Additional individual RAs can be given access to proposals outside of their departments in the SmartForm by the submitting RA. You can select people in the "administrative personnel" section for that purpose.

Q: Will any of the budget information feed from the proposal/award to the outgoing subaward?

A: No, the budget information will need to be entered into the SUBK agreement.

Q: Will there be an error message tripped if numbers do not all add up in a subaward budget?

A: The system will require accurate calculations as there will not be an error message if calculations do not add up correctly. You will need to check your calculations before submitting.


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Article ID: 2259
Thu 4/6/23 8:32 AM
Wed 5/17/23 8:46 AM

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