Preparing the Budget
Preparation of the budget is, for many researchers, the most difficult section of the proposal. Granting agencies see hundreds of proposals yearly and are proficient at comparing levels of funding requested to the research work proposed. Therefore, it is important that the budget section of the proposal reflect, as accurately as possible, the funding needed to carry out the proposed research.
The investigator should neither overestimate the funds required, nor underestimate budgetary needs. Either of these strategies may lead to proposal rejection. A budget, accurately detailing the funds necessary to carry out the technical statement of work, can strengthen the total proposal and increase the likelihood of funding. Furthermore, a carefully prepared budget can often identify weak areas in the proposal narrative and result in improvement of the technical proposal.
Personnel in OSP are experienced in preparing budgets and encourage investigators to contact them when they have a draft of the budget. To make preparing budgets easier, OSP offers a Budget Preparation Template with formulas already written into the spreadsheet.
OSP staff can provide expertise in completing a budget request, applying fringe benefit and facilities/administrative cost rates, documenting subcontracts and/or subrecipient agreements, consultants, matching funds, and cost-sharing. In the case of more complicated proposal requirements, OSP will complete sponsor assurances and certifications, as well as assist the investigator in interpreting RFP guidelines.
Salaries and Wages
To determine total salaries and wages, list the amount of time to be spent by each person who will be working on the project. Time should normally be shown in terms of a percent of full-time effort. Show breakdown between summer and regular academic year for faculty.
No employee may be scheduled for activities in excess of 100% of effort in any given month. As a general policy, NSF limits the salary compensation requested in the proposal budget for senior personnel to no more than two months of their regular salary in any one year. This limit includes salary compensation received from all NSF-funded grants.
Sponsored activities may not result in any employees receiving compensation at a rate in excess of their authorized salary or academic rate. For multi-year projects, the budget should take into consideration any possible salary increases.
Annually, Congress legislatively mandates a provision limiting (capping) the direct salary that an individual may receive under an NIH grant. Direct salary is restricted at Executive Level II of the Federal Executive Pay scale, which is revised annually with an effective period of January 1 through December 31. For awards issued on or after January 8, 2017, the Executive Level II rate is $187,000 ($15,583/mo).
The Department of Labor announced the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) final overtime rule, automatically extending overtime pay protections to millions of workers. The new minimum salary threshold for executive, administrative, and professional (EAP) workers to be classified as “exempt” employees will increase to $47,476 annually, and future automatic updates to the threshold will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020. The crucial issue to note is that “Exempt” employees do not earn overtime if they work over 40 hours in a workweek, whereas non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime and/or comp time if they work over 40 hours in a workweek.
Research associate (postdoctoral) positions fall into the EAP category and must have their salaries meet the new minimum FLSA salary threshold of $47,476 so that they maintain their “exempt” status.
Fringe benefits are a direct cost to a sponsored project, are clearly related to the salaries and wages to be paid, and are shown as a separate entry in the budget. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) no longer negotiates fringe benefit rates for the University. Fringe benefit costs have been calculated based on historical data. The actual costs for fringe benefits are charged (billed) to the sponsored project at the time the costs are incurred; the amount charged is based on salary, selected benefit package, and other variables applicable to the individual employee.
If the actual fringe benefit expenses for a project exceed the projected amount included in the budget, it is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to pay these actual costs from the direct award funds provided by the sponsor.
Normally, consultants (non-UT Dallas employees) are paid a consulting fee plus travel expenses. Many sponsors do not permit payments to consultants and some restrict or limit such payments. If in doubt as to whether consultants are allowed or rates paid to consultants, refer to the sponsor’s program literature or contact the OSP. Whenever possible, identify the proposed consultant by name, their qualifications, anticipated services provided, indicate the number of days of work, daily rate, and provide a curriculum vitae for the consultant in the proposal.
The participation of paid consultants in a sponsored project for periods longer than two weeks should be discussed with the OSP prior to submission of the proposal. Institutional consulting policies are contained in the Consultant’s Policy.
The Independent Contractor Form is used to request approval for contracted professional services provided by individuals considered independent contractors by the IRS.
These requests are submitted via eProcurement and attached to a requisition, but any confidential financial information (social security number, bank information) should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org due to confidential status of the information. If you have questions about this process, please email email@example.com.
Equipment means an article of nonexpendable, tangible personal property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per acquisition components and identified for inventory purposes. This does not include on-campus machine-shop labor.
- Software acquisitions <$5,000 are not capitalized. They are expense items.
- Title to equipment vests with either the University or with the project sponsor; title does not reside personally with faculty or staff
- Title to gifted or donated equipment vests with the University
- Accountability for equipment on Sponsored Projects resides with the PI
- Responsibility for accurately coding acquisition transactions for equipment and approving funding sources rests with the originator and the approvers
There are a variety of methods by which equipment is acquired at UTD. The method of acquisition is determined by factors such as source of funding, type of project, and duration of need.
- Purchase of goods and/or services costing $15,000 or less, including freight, may be placed without competitive bids.
- Purchases over $15,000 and up to $50,000 will require a minimum of three (3) quotes to be taken by either the requesting department or the Procurement Office. At least two (2) quotes must be obtained from HUBs (companies owned by women or minorities, or service disabled veterans). The Procurement Office will approve exceptions to these procedures only when circumstances warrant deviation.
- Purchases over $50,000 will require formal written bids or proposals in response to a written solicitation issued by the Procurement Office. At least two (2) bids or proposals must be obtained from HUBs (companies owned by women or minorities, or service disabled veterans). The Procurement Office will approve exceptions to these procedures only when circumstances warrant deviation.
- For goods to be acquired from only one source without competitive bids, an exclusive acquisition form must be completed. Please see the UTD Procurement website for more information.
Expendable Equipment and Supplies
These are items that cost less than $5,000. Normally, a research project consumes expendable supplies such as laboratory items, teaching aids, computer software, and research supplies. A reasonable amount should be budgeted for these items.
Budget the anticipated cost of publishing the results of the research, and keep in mind that page charges may vary from journal to journal. Consider both page charges and reprint costs.
All travel costs must be justified, especially if foreign travel is anticipated. Travel costs expected to exceed institutional guidelines must be specified. For travel rates, refer to the following: State of Texas Travel Allowance Guide.
Federal regulation and University policy require (with some exceptions) travelers who will be reimbursed by federally sponsored projects to use U.S. flag air carrier service. This is known as the Fly America Act. The Open Skies Agreement is an exception which allows travelers who will be reimbursed by federally sponsored projects to use European Union (plus Norway and Iceland), Australian, Japanese, or Swiss airlines.
The Open Skies Agreement does not apply if travel is funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) or by a department of the U.S. Military. Travel funded by the DOD or by a U.S. military department must be on a U.S. flag air carrier.
For more information/requirements for foreign travel, please review information found here: http://www.utdallas.edu/rs/staff-authorization/
When a proposal contemplates a subcontract/subrecipient agreement to a named subcontractor, the subcontractor’s statement of work, detailed budget, and a letter of commitment signed by the subcontractor’s authorized institutional representative, should be provided to OSP. If the Principal Investigator(s) has any direct or indirect financial or other interest in the subcontractor/subrecipient organization, a disclosing statement must be submitted to the OSP, as well. For clarification between a subcontractor, vendor, and consultant, click this page.
Once a subcontract is executed, the department or PI will need to create a Purchase Order in SciQuest and attach the executed subcontract. The department/PI will need to approve the incoming invoice in order for Procurement to issue payment.
Other Direct Costs
Consider, as appropriate, costs for copying, long-distance telephone calls, postage, reference books and materials, tuition and required fees for participating graduate students, equipment maintenance, and contracted services.
Faculty who anticipate the use of a particularly large number of research animals or animals requiring special care, should consult with the Lab Animal Resource Center staff to see whether the funds estimated will be adequate and whether the Animal Resource Center has adequate facilities to accommodate the animals.
Facilities and Administrative Costs
Facilities and administrative costs, also referred to as indirect costs, must be included using the University’s federally-negotiated rates unless the sponsor has a written policy applicable to all potential proposers which deviates from these rates. All deviations are subject to UT Dallas administrative approval. Sponsor guidelines limiting facilities and administrative costs must be provided with your proposal.
Please note that since the federally-negotiated facilities and administrative cost rates are subject to change annually, Principal Investigators should be prepared to make adjustments in budgets for such changes. See the Facilities and Administrative Cost Rate Agreement or contact the Office of Sponsored Projects, 972-883-2313, for more information.
On and Off-Campus Rates
Off-campus rates are generally used when the Principal Investigator or other research staff is conducting research away from the campus for a period of no less than one long semester or all three summer months. Prior to submitting your proposal, please contact the Office of Sponsored Projects for assistance.
Matching Funds Cost Sharing
The Uniform Guidance states cost sharing is not allowed for federal sponsors and will not be used as a factor in the review of applications or proposals. If sponsor guidelines require cost-sharing or matching funds (cash contribution or donation of in-kind services such as contributed time and effort by the Principal Investigator and research group members), provide appropriate letters of commitment from UT Dallas or third-party source for cost-sharing.
All matching funds or cost-sharing commitments must be approved in advance by the Principal Investigator’s department chair and dean and be documented in writing to the Office of Sponsored Projects with the proposal. Proposals will not be submitted without a dean’s approval of any cost share. Awards will not be processed unless there is a cost center identified for cost share.
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