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Budget Preparation Guide

In this Section

Table of Contents
Budget Frequently Asked Questions
Budget Preparation
Cost Sharing/Matching Funds
Budget Narrative
Institutional Budgetary Policies
Appendix A
Appendix B

The Sponsored Research Services is the central office charged with overseeing the conduct and promotion of research activities at Clarkson University. Although Clarkson recognizes teaching as its primary obligation, it also recognizes the value of research as a means of promoting innovation and creativity and of increasing knowledge and making the knowledge available and useful. It is the philosophy of the University that research supports and enhances its teaching mission.


Budget Frequently Asked Questions
Budgeting details and requirements vary considerably depending on the sponsor and type of proposal. It is helpful to consider the following questions prior to developing a budget:

What cost principles should be used in budget development?
Although cost principles specifically apply to federally sponsored agreements, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-21 (Cost Principles for Educational Institutions) is commonly used to describe the cost principles for all sponsored agreements at Clarkson.

What is the difference between direct and facilities and administrative (indirect) costs?

  • Direct costs are costs that can be identified specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity; or can be directly assigned to such activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy.
  • F&A costs are costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity.

What are nonrecoverable (unallowable) costs?
Expenditures for which Clarkson may not, by regulation, request reimbursement, either in whole or in part, from the federal government are considered nonrecoverable (unallowable). The cost principles in A-21 establish allowability.

Will the proposal incorporate cost-sharing?
Cost-sharing or matching is defined as the cost portion of a project or program not borne by the sponsor. All contributions, including cash and third party in-kind, are acceptable as cost-sharing contributions when they are:

  • Verifiable (documented).
  • Not included as contributions for any other project.
  • Necessary and reasonable to accomplish the project's objectives.
  • Allowable under A-21.
  • Not paid for by the sponsor under another award.
  • Provided for and stated in the approved award.

Cost sharing must be approved prior to submission of the proposal. Written approvals must be submitted to the Sponsored Research Services before the proposal will be mailed. A Proposal Approval form in interactive pdf format can be found here. This form can be saved, filled out and forwarded to the applicable approving Department Head(s), Dean(s), or other official(s).

Federal awards must conform to other provisions as stated in OMB Circular A-110 (Grants and Agreements With Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Nonprofit Organizations: Uniform Administrative Requirements) or in the sponsored agreement.

Some sponsors require cost-sharing in the proposal budget or indicate that it is recommended. When cost-sharing is recommended it usually means that it will be a factor during proposal evaluation. Cost-sharing requirements may be in the form of a specific ratio or stated percentage. The source and categories of the proposed cost-sharing commitment should be clearly cited in the budget justification.

When preparing a proposal that incorporates cost-sharing it is important to remember that any promised cost sharing becomes part of the project cost; the cost must be tracked, and is subject to audit. Every effort should be made to limit commitments, particularly when not required by the sponsor.

After award acceptance, failure to comply with the cost-sharing commitment may result in a loss of funding. Regular tracking of contributions is strongly encouraged, and will prevent under- or over- contribution. Over-contributing might preclude the use of those funds on other projects.

Cost-sharing should be treated in accordance with Clarkson's Cost Sharing Policy (under negotiation with new administration).

Is the budget being prepared in response to a solicitation?
Solicitations are used to communicate sponsor requirements to prospective contractors. For a complete description of the various proposal types, please refer to Clarkson's Guide to Proposal Preparation and Submission. A solicitation is a full statement of the work to be performed and may include the requirements of the proposed agreement, including terms and conditions. A proposal is an offer that can be accepted by the sponsor to create a binding agreement either following negotiations or without discussion.

Special consideration should be given to a solicitation's terms and conditions. It is important to provide the DOR with a copy of the solicitation at least 5 working days prior to the proposal deadline. There may be budgetary requirements and/or limitations such as total project cost, percentage of effort, equipment needs, explicitly restricted budget categories, required travel, F&A cost limitations, period of performance, or cost-sharing. Adhering to the solicitation's guidelines is crucial, as a specific budget format and level of budgetary detail and/or justification may be required.

Who do I contact to request special budgetary considerations/waivers?
PIs should contact the DOR early in the budget preparation process if special budgetary considerations/waivers are needed. The DOR will facilitate interaction with the appropriate University administrators for special budget approval consideration.

Currently, budget approvals requiring special attention include:

  • Reduction in indirect costs other than published agency restrictions.
  • Tuition waivers (due to agency indirect cost restriction).
  • Salary recovery waiver.
  • Cost Sharing/Matching Funds.


Budget Preparation
This section of your proposal answers the following questions: (1) how much the project will cost, and (2) what are the specific cost categories. Accuracy and detail are essential in this section. Be sure to show all costs related to the project. Keep in mind that sponsors will support costs that are reasonable and justified in a budget description. Be careful to follow guidelines completely.

The DOR does not encourage a PI to "pad" his/her budget in anticipation of a request by the funding agency to reduce the budget. The budget should be accurate and reflect all costs required to perform the research without such "padding."

Elements of most budgets include the following: Direct Costs, Indirect Costs, and, when required, Cost Sharing. These elements are described in detail below.

Use the DOR's proposal budget spreadsheet to use for planning your budget. In addition, current rates for specific budget terms listed below are available here . For general budget inquiries, contact the DOR preaward unit at 315-268-6475.

Direct Costs

Salaries and Wages
The time and effort of all personnel should be included in your budget. Proposed salaries must be in accordance with University approved rates. Contact DOR for assistance in determining University policies pertaining to your respective schools. Possible categories are defined in more detail below.

  • PI/Co-PI: the individual(s) who developed the proposal and are responsible for the conduct of the research project, who will have spending authority on any resulting award. University guidelines for determining compensation are:
    • During the academic year a faculty member carrying a full load may commit a total of 50% of his or her time to sponsored research. Based on time committed, salary recovery will be taken during the academic year. Current policy in all schools is equal academic salary and summer salary should be requested in the budget. See the Institutional Policies Section below for any exceptions to these policies.
    • During the summer (May 15th to August 15) it is recommended that faculty draw no more than 83.3% of their 1/9 of their academic salary each month for a total of up to 2.5/9ths during the summer from all sources (University and/or external).
  • Faculty Associate: individuals who are members of Clarkson's or another institution's faculty and will be contributing effort to the research but will not be responsible for the conduct of the research. Guidelines for determining compensation are the same as those stated in "PI/Co-PI" above except that associates who are not Clarkson faculty members do not draw salary recovery.
  • Research Associates: individuals who have a Ph.D. or equivalent. Compensation should be consistent with University rates for like positions funded by University and in accord with the level of expertise and education of the person being hired.
  • Research Assistant: Clarkson graduate students. Compensation includes stipend and tuition compensation if not otherwise provided.
  • Student Help: Clarkson undergraduate students. Compensation is limited to a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week while school is not in session. Rate of compensation must be at least minimum wage and may be higher in accordance with the level of expertise and education of the person being hired. Current rates.

Fringe Benefits
Fringe benefits apply to the following categories: academic year salary (full benefit rate), research associates (statutory and medical insurance), technicians (statutory and/or full), and undergraduate students (statutory) working during the summer only. The budget should indicate which positions fringe benefits are requested for and how the calculation was determined. Current rates.

Consultants provide technical expertise for a limited duration necessary for the conduct of the sponsored project. Consultants are temporary arrangements with external companies or individuals. Contact DOR for guidance on the use of consultants and approved contractual rates. Many agencies limit the rate per day. University policy prohibits faculty from serving as a consultant on their own behalf. Consultant agreement.

Equipment critical to carrying out the project should be listed with a catalog price or accurate estimate of the cost of each item listed, and fully justified in the proposal narrative. Clarkson's definition of equipment is: any item of value more than $5,000 and having a lifespan of two or more years.

Materials and Supplies
Expendable equipment (less than $5,000) and supplies should be listed in this section. Each item should be listed and carefully justified in terms of need.

Travel costs include meals, lodging, airfare, and ground transportation. Domestic and Foreign travel costs should be detailed separately. Most agencies require the following detail: reason for travel, number of trips, and costs. Some agencies have limits on the amount of travel that can be requested and who may use travel funds. The DOR will advise on the necessity of this.

A subcontract agreement between Clarkson University and an external organization is appropriate when a significant portion of the research will be performed at another institution or industry. Contact the DOR for guidance in including subcontract costs in proposed budgets. Once an organization has been selected to be involved as a subrecipient a Subaward Package is sent to them for them to certify that they are eligible to receive funding as a subrecipient of the prime awarding agency. Please contact the Sponsored Research Services to initiate this process.

Other Direct Costs
These are additional items not specifically identified above; however relevant to Clarkson University's budgeting process:

  • Publication Costs: include the cost of preparing and publishing the results of research conducted. This category includes page charges, reprint charges, other journal costs and that of illustrations and/or photographs.
  • Electron Microscope Usage: requests for electron microscope usage are budgeted at the rate of $30 per hour. This charge is excluded from the indirect cost base.
  • NMR Usage: use of Clarkson University's NMR facility has established rates. This charge is included in the indirect cost base. Current rates are: $20 for the first hour and $10/hour after.
  • Equipment Fabrication: includes costs associated with fabricating a component from small parts that form one unit and will perform a specific task related to the proposed research. This completed unit must be $5,000 or more to be excluded from the indirect cost base.
  • Service Contracts/Maintenance: this request should indicate the item for which the service contract or maintenance is needed, cost and justification.
  • Renovation: request should indicate space to be renovated, justification, cost and who will be doing the renovation (if known).
  • Tuition: University policy provides tuition for graduate students fully supported by research awards carrying full overhead. If an award does not carry full overhead, then tuition should be included as a budget item. This cost is excluded from the indirect cost base. Current tuition rates.

Indirect Costs
Indirect cost (also called overhead) is requested on all budgets unless expressly prohibited by the funding agency. The indirect cost rate is negotiated with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and reflects the costs to the University of accepting and administering external research awards which cannot be readily identified with any specific award. Clarkson University uses a Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC) base for determining indirect cost rates. The MTDC base includes all costs except for the following items: equipment, equipment fabrication, electron microscope usage, tuition, and any amount of each subcontract over $25,000. Current and projected indirect cost rates.

Two indirect cost rates are negotiated: on-campus and off-campus. The off-campus rate would be used if the PI relies on facilities and services that are based off campus (such as a separate lab in a leased building) not necessarily on the location where the actual data gathering occurs. The off-campus rate should not be used only in the case of faculty performing field work but then relying on the use of campus facilities to ultimately store and analyze the data gathered (i.e. departmental secretaries, campus copiers, campus phones, etc.).


Cost Sharing/Matching Funds
Some sponsors require that the University contribute a certain portion of funding to the overall cost of a project or the purchase of a piece of equipment. This contribution may come from in-kind (non-cash) or cash contributions and must be approved by the appropriate Clarkson University Administrator and the DOR. For this reason, be sure to obtain written authorization for cost sharing before writing or submitting a proposal requiring this kind of commitment by the University. The DOR will assist the PI in determining when cost sharing is needed and in what form it will be provided.

Currently, Clarkson provides cost sharing when required as follows:

  • Salary recovery, fringe benefits and associated overhead
  • Tuition for graduate students when the student is fully supported by an award
  • Difference between agency restricted overhead rate and Clarkson's current overhead rate.


Budget Narrative
Most agencies require a budget narrative (budget narrative template) which justifies the proposed costs broken down in the calculated budget. Some agencies require extensive detail. The DOR suggests the following format:

  • Salaries And Wages - Senior Personnel: List individually all senior personnel and their responsibilities related to the project.
  • Salaries And Wages - Other Personnel: List individually all other personnel and their responsibilities related to the project.
  • Fringe Benefits: Include the following boiler plate terminology: (Calculated as direct costs in accordance with Clarkson University's Indirect Cost Rate Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services.)
  • Permanent Equipment: Itemize and justify items exceeding $5,000 and 2 years' useful life.
  • Domestic Travel: Address the type and extent of travel for all travelers (including consultant travel) and its relation to the project. Itemize by destination and cost. Fare allowances are limited to round trip, jet-economy rates.
  • Foreign Travel: Address the type and extent of travel for all travelers (including consultant travel) and its relation to the project. Include countries to be visited, dates of foreign visits or meetings, if known, and justification. Fare allowances are limited to round trip, jet-economy rates.
  • Participant Support Costs: Normally, participant support costs may only be requested for awards supporting conferences, workshops or symposia. Consult specific program guidelines for additional information.
  • Other Direct Costs:
    • Materials And Supplies: Indicate types required and estimate costs.
    • Publication Costs/Documentation/Dissemination: Estimate costs of documenting, preparing, publishing, disseminating, and sharing research findings.
    • Consultant Services: Indicate name, daily compensation, and estimated days of service.
    • Subcontracts: Include a budget and justify details. Must be endorsed by subcontracting institution.
    • Other: See Other Direct Costs listed above.
  • Indirect Costs:
    Include the following boiler plate terminology: "Indirect Cost is calculated in accordance with Clarkson University's Indirect Cost Rate Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, Clarkson is using a rate of 52% of modified total direct costs (MTDC), per DHHS Agreement dated 07/17/12. If any rate other than the appropriate negotiated rate is applied to a project due to published program restrictions or sponsor policy, all unrecovered indirect costs are designated as cost sharing by Clarkson University. Clarkson's threshold for equipment is now $5,000 as allowed by OMB Circular A-110."
  • Cost Sharing:
    Include any specific cost sharing amounts detailed in the cost proposal. Include the estimated value of any in-kind contributions. Discuss the source, nature, amount and availability of any proposed cost sharing. If a proposal budget includes a specific cost sharing level, the identified cost sharing level is expected to be included as a requirement in the award.


Institutional Budgetary Policies
Note – requires updating with new administration effective 7/1

Salary Recovery

School of Engineering
All budgets should request one month of faculty academic salary for each month of faculty summer salary requested, unless the following conditions are both met:

  • The agency or company refuses to pay salary recovery or the available funds are limited. This must either be documented in writing or confirmed by a telephone conversation between a representative of the agency and a responsible person in Clarkson's DOR.
  • No more than one month summer salary is requested for each graduate or postdoctorate fully supported for 12 months. These conditions should also be met by any changes in a proposal budget or budget transfers on existing grants and contracts. For example, if funds are transferred into summer salary, an equal amount must be transferred into academic salary. Those professors returning a portion of their academic salary should have lighter teaching and committee duties compared to professors in their departments not recovering salary.

School of Arts & Science
All budgets should request one month of faculty academic salary for each month of faculty summer salary requested, unless the following conditions are both met:

  • The agency or company refuses to pay salary recovery or the available funds are limited. This must either be documented in writing or confirmed by a telephone conversation between a representative of the agency and a responsible person in Clarkson's DOR.
  • No more than one month summer salary is requested for each graduate or postdoctorate fully supported for 12 months.

These conditions should also be met by any changes in a proposal budget or budget transfers on existing grants and contracts. For example, if funds are transferred into summer salary, an equal amount must be transferred into academic salary.

School of Business
There are two applications of salary recovery, one is to provide dollars to "buy" faculty time and the other is to support a research effort. The "buy-out" amount will employ a person to teach a course. Generally, that would be about $5,000 minimum per course. Salary recovery is calculated on the basis of the PI and Co-PI salary. For each summer month salary, there should be an equal amount designated as salary recovery. If salary recovery is not used to cover a course, the Dean will return one third to the department and one third to the PI. One third will remain in the School's salary recovery budget to support faculty research. (Clarkson policy states that one third will be returned to the department from which the grant originated, but the Dean prefers to be sure that the PI is guaranteed an additional benefit from his or her effort). Department chairs can elect to return more dollars to the PI or carry the dollars over in a salary recovery account.

Equipment Cost Sharing

School of Engineering

Federal Funding Agencies
Effective immediately, for all federal funding agencies, the SOE will commit to cost share the MINIMUM REQUIRED amount for equipment. If the cost sharing exceeds $50,000 then the Dean would request to be informed of such a need prior to proposal submission.

Beyond these minimum support levels, individual support needs will be decided on a case-by-case basis with an attempt being made to provide further assistance, particularly to newer faculty. This modified policy will no doubt (hopefully) place increased pressure for funds on the SOE. The SOE may not always be about to allocate funds immediately upon approval of your awards and may also need to work with faculty over the course of the award to secure the cost sharing funds.

Non-federal Funding Agencies
The School of Engineering will provide funds for cost sharing for equipment on proposals, if the following conditions are met:

  • The proposal is for equipment only and not for research supplies, personnel, etc.
  • The commitment for cost sharing was made on the budget accepted for funding.
  • The equipment is to be housed permanently in the SOE for use by engineering faculty and students.
  • The total amount provided by all parts of Clarkson does not exceed 50% of the cost of the equipment.

TA/RA Stipend/Tuition
Faculty requesting research assistant stipends in proposals and those already supporting research assistants should take the standard stipend amount into account. Any appointments that crosses fiscal years, the Graduate School will automatically process the necessary paperwork to increase the student's stipend to reflect the new rate.

Graduate School will allocate funds to cover tuition (maximum of 15 credit hours per academic semester and not to exceed 30 credit hours per calendar year) for the teaching assistants (designated by the department) for the credit hours taken during their term of appointment. Appointments should run in at least half-year terms.


Appendix A

Budget Submission Notice
The proposal budget template is a tool to use for planning your budget and should be submitted to the DOR for formalization.

Sample Budget Template


Appendix B

Budget Narrative Template
The budget justification is one of the most important non-technical sections of the proposal, and it is often required by the sponsor. In this section the Principal Investigator (PI) provides additional detail for expenses within each budget category and articulates the need for the items/expenses listed. The information provided in the budget justification may be the definitive criteria used by sponsor review panels and administrative officials when determining the amount of funding to be awarded. The following format is a sample only; not all components will apply to every proposal. Many sponsors prefer that budget justifications follow their own format. In all cases, however, it is best to present the justification for each budget category in the same order as that provided in the budget itself.

Sample Budget Narrative Template