The budget can be one of the most important factors in a proposal.
To underestimate your budget in the hopes that a modest budget is more likely to get funded leaves you in the position of perhaps not being able to accomplish the work you have described in your proposal.
On the other hand, to inflate your budget so you have "cutting room" is also a risky venture, primarily because reviewers have experience in program budgets, and nothing raises a red flag faster than a budget that is way out of line!
There are a number of different ways to put a budget together. It is recommended that you think through your project, IN MINUTE DETAIL, (i.e., are you hiring staff? Will you have to advertise the position? Are you mailing a survey? Will it weigh more than a postage stamp will cover?). If necessary, budget by activity that you will undertake in the project, again thinking of the activities in great detail. The staff of the OSP are always available to assist with budget development.
Remember that a Budget Narrative is generally required for proposals, so as you are making specific calculations, note how and why you came up with them. It will make the narrative a virtual snap to prepare.
Finally, do not include in your budget those items which the sponsor has indicated are ineligible for the grant. For example, if you need a $25,000 piece of equipment to get the work done on the grant, but the sponsor indicates that it strongly discourages equipment in the grant, don’t put it in! Short of a prior approval from the appropriate program officer, this would be a major no-no.
The list below is a BUDGET ITEM DESCRIPTION, followed by a SAMPLE BUDGET WORKSHEET for you to use to develop the essential elements of your proposal budget. This list is not absolute – it is a guideline only, and other categories may apply to your specific project. Use these as tools for working through the elements of your project including personnel and non-personnel services necessary to conduct the project.
When you have worked through these, call the OSP for the preparation of the final budget and in completing the necessary forms as required by the sponsor and the campus.
BUDGET ITEM DESCRIPTION
Academic Year/Calendar Year Release Time Calculation = Base Salary (converted to monthly or weekly rate) x % Effort x amount of time (months/weeks) required on project. The principal investigator/project director should determine amount of effort required by each person working on the project and the amount of time committed. Release time requests should be taken to the department chair. An alternative to this calculation is to estimate the funds needed for adjunct replacement (plus fringe benefits).
Extra Service Calculation = Extra service payments can be made to Fredonia and staff and to Research Foundation employees as long as it meets the SUNY system and Research Foundation requirements. In general an extra service appointment can be made under the following conditions:
Summer Salary (academic year employees only) - Each month of effort equals 1/9 of academic year salary base, to a maximum summer salary of 2/9ths.
Research Foundation Employees:
Project Directors are responsible for appointing students to appropriate employment titles and ensuring that the students meet all four criteria if the reduced rate has been applied.
CATEGORY: FRINGE BENEFITS
Fringe Benefits are added to the salaries and wages to cover payroll expenses and cover such benefits as: FICA, Workers Compensation, Unemployment Costs, Retirement, and other payroll costs as applicable. Every year, the Research Foundation determines an average rate to be used, based on past actual costs. OSP has the most current rates available or are available at this link: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/agencies/guide/MyWebHelp/Content/VII/9.htm
Travel expenses can include airfare, mileage, per diem expenses for lodging and meals, registration fees, ground transportation, airport fees, etc. You should contact a travel agency to obtain flight costs. Use the economy fare, without discounts for budget calculations. Better to have more airfare than needed that to be caught short! As a reminder, federal grants require you to use a domestic carrier. Also remember that the time of year can affect travel rates so tell your agent when you would be traveling.
Mileage and per diem rates for meals and lodging have been predetermined by the Research Foundation. In general, these are the same as those for SUNY. Here is a link to The Research Foundation.
Most sponsors have a policy regarding permanent equipment. Be sure to read the guidelines carefully and consult with the Program Officer if you have any questions about putting equipment in your budget. The current Research Foundation policy establishes an equipment threshold of $5,000. Equipment costing less than $5,000 should be budgeted as Supplies & Materials.
CATEGORY: SUPPLIES & MATERIALS
This category includes expendable supplies and materials required for use on the project as well as equipment costing less than $5,000. Examples include, but are not limited to: office s supplies (paper, printer cartridges, typewriter ribbons, envelopes, pens, glue, staples, books, video cassettes, etc.) and program supplies which would include lab supplies, glassware, chemicals, and other research specific supplies. Equipment with a unit price less than $5,000 (adding machines, FAX machines, copiers, computers, printers, software, etc.).
This is a catchall for needed line items that do not fall into any of the above categories. Examples include telephone charges, postage, copying expense, printing/publication costs, promotional items, subcontracts, participation stipends, insurance on equipment, symposium or conference costs (not travel), consultants, etc.
Consultants are a special category unto themselves and require special handling. A consultant is individual/firm possessing expertise in a particular field engaged as an independent contractor to render advice or perform a specific task in return for an established fee. Generally, independent contractors establish their own work hours, provide all necessary materials and tools and control the means by which the work result is achieved. Faculty members on their own campuses ARE NOT considered consultants. Payments to faculty members at sister campuses will be no more than $40.00 per day where overnight expenses are not incurred and no more than $100.00 where overnight is required. If you have ANY questions at all on this issue, call the OSP.
CATEGORY: INDIRECT COSTS
Indirect costs are those costs attributable to facilities or services provided by the university such as administrative services, building space, utilities, janitorial services, libraries, etc. Most sponsors provide information on the allowability of Indirect Costs and the applicable rates that can be charged. The Research Foundation negotiates with the Federal Government to arrive at predetermined rates for each SUNY campuses. The rates are Federal, Non-Federal and Administrative when not specified by the sponsor, and may have a different basis for calculation. MORE INFORMATION ON INDIRECT COSTS
COST SHARING AND MATCHING REQUIREMENTS
Cost sharing occurs when SUNY, the Research Foundation, or a third party contributes towards the total direct or indirect costs of a project. These cost may either be in terms of unpaid personnel effort or in in-kind goods, services, etc. According to OMB Circular A-110,
Cost sharing or matching means that portion of project or program costs not borne by the Federal Government.
For each sponsored project or program that involves cost participation, the cost participation is classified as mandatory or voluntary. Mandatory cost sharing is often called "matching costs" and may be a specified amount or a percentage of the total funds requested.
Cost sharing must be carefully constructed as these are considered auditable. Cost share elements must be allowable, treated consistently, allocable and recorded.
The need for cost sharing should be based upon a thorough consideration of sponsor and program specific requirements. Most Federal agencies heavily weigh cost share as a positive factor in their proposal review, not only as reflected in the proposal budget, but in the narrative section as well.
The Federal government has recently cited cost share as a "high risk" area within its review of the cost accounting standards applicable to universities. Whether such cost sharing is mandatory or not, the government asserts the cost treatment of such contributions must be verifiable through auditable records for both personal service and other than personal service.
Read the sponsor guidelines carefully for specific information regarding what costs are allowable under the sponsor regulations. Federal OMB Circular A-21 - Cost Principles for Educational Institutions - provides guidance and principles for determining costs applicable to grants, contracts, and other agreements with educational institutions. If you have questions, call or e-mail the OSP or the Program Officer with the sponsor.
SAMPLE BUDGET WORKSHEET
Personnel: Professional Employees (Principal Investigator, Co-Principal Investigator, Senior Scientist, Project Director, Project Coordinator, Counselors/Teachers, etc.); Non-Professional Employees/Students (Technicians, Secretaries, Student Assistants, etc.)
If you have any questions about any item in this section or on budgeting in general, don’t hesitate to call.