Budget Format Breakdown
Fringe benefits are charged to sponsored projects at a rate of 28% of direct salary costs. For example, a technician with an annual salary of $24,000 that has a 100% time of effort on the project, would charge the agency $6,000 in benefit costs. A research scientist, with an AY salary of $55,000, and a time of effort of 33% during the school year would incur $4,584 of benefit costs that must be charged to the grant.
Student Stipends, Benefits and Tuition
Graduate stipends may vary according to funding source and resources within the Department. Appointments may be administered for 12 months or from August through May, with separate contracts for the summer months of June and July. Benefit rates for graduate student stipends (and undergraduate when appropriate) are charged at a rate of 8%. If necessary, the school will contribute to the FICA taxation as a matching contribution to the project.
Tuition may change from one year to the next, therefore, it is best to request current tuition rates from the Business Office or the OSP. For multi-year projects, it is best to factor in a 4% increase in the tuition rate for each subsequent year of funding. Tuition charges should not be included in the wages and salary category (it can not be included for the indirect costs charges), but rather in the “Other” classification.
Supplies and Materials
Supplies are usually considered to be the consumable items used in support of project objectives. Items such as laboratory notebooks, diskettes, software, printer paper for research data and reports, report binders, cartridge replacements and other such materials can be justified as consumable supplies if it is demonstrated that these items are used only in the conduct of the project and not for other purposes. If these supply items are purchases to support activities of project personnel that do not include the said funded project, they are considered office supplies and may not be allowable costs.
The estimated cost of consumable supplies and materials should be indicated in the proposed budget. Shipping charges are allowable charges. Generally, a break-down of supply items by broad categories is acceptable. A detailed list of individual items by name is not necessary. However, contract awards may require a detailed itemization of supplies.
Major items of equipment should be itemized by descriptive name, estimated cost and source of supply (if known). An adequate justification should be provided both in the proposal narrative and budget justification. It is important to show how the proposed equipment is relevant to achieving the specific aims or overall goals of the project. If the item is already available on the campus, the necessity of a duplicate should be clearly justified. Shipping and/or installation charges associated with equipment acquisitions should be included in the cost of the equipment item.
Agencies may allow for specialized services whenever these costs are justified. For example, if computing services are needed to analyze large sets of data in the proposed study (e.g., surveys or complex statistical analyses), or animal housing and maintenance are required, these services may be included as part of the total direct costs. Some degree of itemization may be necessary to justify costs (i.e., number of animals at a cost of $.55/day per animal for a two month experimental period).
Many different categories of needs are directly associated with research or programmatic thrusts. It is the responsibility of the PI to anticipate and prepare for the necessities required to execute a successful project. Costs associated with equipment upkeep may be allowed. Such items as service contracts for equipment necessary to achieve the goals of the project are legitimate requests, unless stipulated otherwise by the funding agency. Library acquisitions, publication costs, radioactive use permit cost, hazardous waste disposal costs are all costs that may be allowed.
Consultants and Subcontracts
Accountability is mandated for all business transactions. Not only must goals be clearly stated, there must be a point at which it is apparent that these goals have been obtained. For this reason, evaluation is a major item for any project. At times it may be necessary to hire consultants for evaluation of a project. Recently, many agencies are requiring this component and may even indicate an acceptable percentage of the direct costs that should be spent on evaluation.
Consultants may be required to execute the project. Federal agencies may have established maximum daily rates of pay for consultants. If unsure of the policy for your proposed funding source, please contact the OSP for help. Be sure to include all costs including travel, per diem, consultant fee, reports (or other deliverables) and any other items necessary to successfully complete the proposed work. If subcontracts are not a part of the grant application, consultants may actually be collaborators. Be sure to include all costs that are required for the consultant to be effective. The University must enter into a formal agreement with the consultant prior to the initiation of work.
The cost of a subcontract is usually shown as a single line item. A formal proposal from the subcontractor (including a statement of work, a detailed budget, period of performance, deliverables, and key personnel) should be included to support the cost proposed. The PI should explain why and how the proposed subcontractor was selected and include the number of bids obtained (if appropriate). A subcontracted effort requires a formal agreement between the University and the subcontractor, signed by the Provost and Vice-President of Financial Affairs of Fisk University and an upper level management person of the subcontracting organization. The PI should consult staff in the OSP for information regarding indirect cost policies on subcontracts.
Indirect costs are the real costs of Fisk University’s operations which are not readily identifiable to a particular project. Full recovery of these costs is expected on all grants or contracts, up to the level allowed by the sponsor’s written policy. Indirect cost rates are determined through negotiations with a federal agency and are applicable to all federally sponsored projects. Presently, this rate for Fisk is 61.0% of salary and wages, excluding fringe benefits.
Funds may be requested to cover travel costs associated with the proposed project. Agencies often require a breakdown of travel costs by trip, reflecting the purpose, point of travel, number of persons, transportation costs, lodging and per diem. If foreign travel is requested, detailed justification is required. Information concerning travel reimbursement rates for Fisk University is found is the Business Office Manual available from the Office of the Vice President of Financial Affairs.
The cost-sharing requirements of agencies and requests for proposals vary. Cost-sharing requirements may be specific (i.e., requiring a certain percentage of funds) or may require some form of other resources to ensure that the University has a commitment to the proposed project. Agencies (especially federal agencies, although not exclusively) requiring cost-sharing expect the cost-sharing commitment to be clearly identified within the proposed budget and will further stipulate that any cost-sharing included in an award budget is a condition of the award and is subject to audit. Therefore, it is important that any cost-sharing commitments be cleared through the OSP before the budget is finalized and they should be incorporated into the project if the award is received.
The OMB Circular A-110 states that:
All contributions, including cash and third party in-kind, shall be accepted as part of the recipient’s cost sharing or matching when such contributions meet all of the following criteria
- Are verifiable from the recipient’s records.
- Are not included as contributions for any other federally-assisted project or program.
- Are necessary and reasonable for proper and efficient accomplishment of project or program objectives.
- Are allowable under applicable cost principles (i.e., A-21).
- Are not paid by the Federal Government under another award, except where authorized by Federal statute to be used for cost sharing or matching.
- Are provided for in the approved budget when required by the Federal awarding agency
- Conform to other provisions of the Circular, as applicable.
Unrecovered indirect costs may be included as part of cost sharing or matching only with the prior approval of the Federal awarding agency.
The general position of the University is to minimize cost sharing to that amount either required by the agency or deemed necessary to position the grant application in a more competitive stance. OSP staff may be able to help identify possible sources of cost sharing from the University, therefore, PIs are urged to discuss cost sharing commitments well in advance of the submission deadlines to avoid “last minute” problems, misunderstandings and/or non-submission of a grant application. For example, if cost sharing (or faculty time bought with external funding) includes faculty release time, it is imperative that discussions are held well in advance so that teaching loads can be adjusted and appropriate plans are in place which will not compromise the curriculum quality.
Cost sharing commitments should be indicated clearly in the proposal to the sponsor and on the Proposal Information Sheet required for all grant applications. If cost sharing is not a specified requirement of the sponsor, it may be desirable to elucidate a ‘statement of support and commitment (not auditable)’ in lieu of cost sharing. Such a statement should be shown as an addendum to, but not be considered a part of, the budget. Again it is re-iterated, answers to questions and help should be sought early in the budget process from staff in the OSP.