General Guidelines for Proposal Budgets
The following guidelines respond to the most frequently asked questions concerning proposal budgets. For further information, call the Office of Research Services at 742-3884.
- Fringe Benefits
- Other Direct Costs
- Facilities & Administrative Costs
Except in extraordinary circumstances, university employees who are being paid from external funds do not receive compensation in excess of their authorized salaries, but if allowed by agency guidelines, faculty members on nine-month appointments can earn up to three months additional summer salary. Faculty members may also pay for part of their academic year time from external sources in order to devote more time to the project. In the latter instance state-funded salary is replaced by salary funds from the sponsoring agency, and arrangements for this must be coordinated with the department chair and the college dean.
The minimum salary for research assistants is $7,472 for nine months half-time (10 hours per week). There is no maximum salary; however, salaries for research assistants should be consistent with other salaries paid in the department and college.
Salaries for currently employed secretaries, technicians or other staff should be based on current salary. Salaries for employees to be hired should be based on the minimum salary for that position in the current Personnel Pay Plan, which is available at https://www.depts.ttu.edu/personnel/jobclasses/jobclassintro.asp.
We recommend that you plan for increases of 3 to 5 percent in subsequent years. Be consistent across all job classifications.
Administrative and Clerical Salaries: Federal regulations state that administrative and clerical salaries should normally be charged as facilities and administrative costs rather than direct costs, but these costs are allowable if specifically approved by the funding agency. Therefore, for all federal proposals any administrative or clerical salaries should be clearly identified in the budget and adequate justification should be attached. Prior to proposal submission, projects should be approved as a “Major Project” in order to include these costs in the project budget. Use the Justification Form for approval as a “Major Project.”
The following are examples from federal guidelines of the types of projects which may justify direct charging of administrative and clerical staff:
- Large complex programs that entail assembling and managing teams of investigators from a number of institutions;
- Projects which involve extensive data accumulation and entry, surveying, tabulation, cataloging, and reporting, such as epidemiological studies, clinical trials, and retrospective clinical records studies;
- Projects whose principal focus is the preparation and production of manuals and large reports (excluding routine progress and technical reports);
- Projects that are geographically inaccessible to normal departmental administrative services, such as seagoing research vessels and radio astronomy projects that are remote from the campus.
Fringe benefits include Social Security payments, workers' compensation insurance, health and other insurance, lump-sum vacation pool, retiree insurance pool and retirement plan payments. Fringe benefits are based on salary and if salaries are paid from external sources, fringe benefits must be paid from that same source. In a proposal budget, fringe benefits may be estimated, but when charged, they will be charged at the actual rate. The current rates for estimating fringe benefits are:
- For employees eligible for full benefits – 18 percent of salary plus the monthly charge for medical insurance premium sharing (estimated at $795 per month in FY 2015 if actual charge is not known).
- For graduate research assistants – 1 percent of salary plus the monthly charge for medical insurance premium sharing (estimated at $398 per month in FY 2015 if actual charge is not known).
- For undergraduate student assistants and employees employed for 19 or fewer hours per week or for less than four and one-half months – 1 percent of salary.
The cost of health insurance has been escalating rapidly. Therefore, we recommend that you increase the estimate for health insurance by 10 percent each year. Click here to estimate fringe benefits for multiple years.
For any anticipated travel, the budget should include the number of travelers, the destination, duration of trip, travel costs, subsistence costs and other costs. Estimates of coach class airfare should be obtained from a travel agent. Per diem rates allowable under the State of Texas travel policy are available from the Travel Office, from most department offices and at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/21287.
Travel costs may also include registration fees and local transportation.
Foreign travel should be clearly justified. If appropriate paperwork is submitted in advance of the trip, State of Texas policy allows reimbursement for actual expense for foreign travel. Federal per diem rates are generally acceptable estimates for foreign travel and are available at http://aoprals.state.gov/web920/per_diem.asp.
The university's facilities and administrative cost agreement defines permanent or capital equipment as any item costing $5000 or more with a life expectancy of one year or more. Shipping and installation charges should be included in the estimated cost. Any equipment less than $5,000 (including computers) should be called “uncapitalized equipment.”
Supplies include expendable equipment, lab supplies and instructional materials. Office supplies cannot be charged to a federally sponsored project unless they have been specifically approved in the budget; therefore, if needed, office supplies should be clearly identified in the budget and a justification should be provided.
Other Direct Costs
Include under this category, duplicating costs, long-distance telephone charges, reference materials, subcontracts and graduate student tuition and fee remission. For federally sponsored projects, postage, local telephone costs and memberships cannot be charged unless they are specifically approved by the agency. These costs should be clearly identified in the budget and justification provided.
Tuition and Fee Remission: A new policy, effective in the Fall 2012 semester, provides for reduced out-of-pocket costs of tuition and fees paid by doctoral students who are employed half-time as research assistants, teaching assistants or GPTIs. In order to receive the reduced tuition and fees, students must be admitted to a doctoral program. For doctoral students paid from sponsored projects, the additional tuition and fees will be paid from the sponsored project account unless the sponsor has a policy prohibiting tuition and fee charges. The amount of tuition and fees to be charged will vary by college.
There is no change in tuition and fee charges for graduate students who are not admitted to a doctoral program.
The updated policy as well as a detailed grid (that shows exactly which fees are waived) can be found on the Tuition & Fees page of the ORS website. Please note that the detailed grid shows tuition and fees, and fees for 2014-2015. It does not reflect the 5% escalator we normally apply. The simplified grid for estimating tuition and fees for 2015-2016 and beyond includes an escalation factor.
The budget justification should include the following explanation for graduate tuition and fee remission:
- Effective September 1, 2000 compensation provided to teaching and research assistants at Texas Tech University includes remission of certain tuition and fees. These costs will be charged in accordance with OMB Circular A-21 and are excluded from the facilities and administrative cost base. These costs are expected to increase at the rate of 5 percent per year.
Any cost sharing committed in the proposal must be listed on the routing sheet and initialed by the individual who has the authority to commit the cost sharing. Usually this individual is the department chair, dean, or a line-item director. Cost sharing is subject to the same restrictions as awarded funds. Administrative and clerical salaries, office supplies, postage, local telephone costs and memberships are allowable as cost sharing only if specifically approved by the funding agency. Cost sharing is also subject to audit; therefore, all cost sharing must be carefully documented when the award is received.
Because of the extra effort and the complications involved, principal investigators and project directors should include cost sharing only if cost sharing is specifically required by the funding program. Often the generally stated requirement of "institutional contribution" can be satisfied by a quantified description of institutional support. An example of such a description follows:
- The College has already provided funds for the PI to travel to meet with the collaborator, to complete preliminary field research, and to confirm the logistical aspects of the project. All necessary major capital equipment has been purchased, including . . . (list of equipment).
Facilities & Administrative Costs (F&A)
F&A costs pay for items that cannot be associated with a specific project, including utilities, building use, library services, sponsored project administration and general university administration.
The University's F&A cost rates are established through negotiation with a federal audit agency. Current rates are:
- Research – 49% of modified total direct costs(MTDC)
- Instruction – 49% of modified total direct costs(MTDC)
- Off-campus – 26% MTDC
- Other Sponsored Activity – 37% MTDC
- Intergovernment Personal Act – 14% MTDC
Modified total direct costs are total direct costs minus equipment, stipends, and subcontract costs in excess of $25,000 per subcontract, and tuition and fees. If a project is to be performed both on and off-campus, the Office of Research Services will determine the appropriate rate.