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Proposal Budgeting Basics

Proposal Budget

A detailed line item budget must be submitted for each proposal. The budget is reviewed by CEHHS Office of Research and by UTK Office of Sponsored Programs staff for accuracy regarding salary, fringe benefits, direct costs, facilities and administrative costs, and cost sharing.

Most proposals use annual project periods. A separate budget should be made for each year of a multi-year project.


  • All UT personnel working on the proposed project should be listed in the Personnel section of the budget form.
    • Names of personnel should be provided when known.
  • Define their role on the project, for example:
    • Lead Principal Investigaor (PI)
    • PI and/or Co-PI
    • Post Doc
    • Other Professional such as Statistician, Data Manager, etc.
    • Graduate Research Assistant (GRA). Put all GRA’s on one line in the budget if possible.
  • Enter number of academic months and number of summer months for each person.
  • NSF limits salary compensation for senior personnel to no more than 2 months per year on NSF-funded grants. The 2 month limit includes salary from all NSF grants for the individual.
  • Base Salary
    • Enter the amount of annual base salary plus longevity for the employee.
    • The CEHHS Research budget forms are formulated to increase salary by 3% in Years 2-5. Be sure to add 3% to current salary in Year 1 if necessary.
  • Salary Requested
    • The CEHHS Research budget forms are formulated for faculty with 9-month appointments. The formula will divide the total annual salary by 9 to find a monthly salary and then multiply this amount by the number of academic and summer months to derive salary requested.
    • Administrative and clerical salaries are a part of F&A costs. If there is justification to charge all or some of this type of salary to a federally funded project, please complete a Direct Charge Justification Form.
    • Find information about Graduate Student Rates.
  • Fringe Benefits
    • The Detailed Proposal Budget is set up to calculate fringe benefits at 33% of salary, which is an average for all University employees (as of August 2011).
    • This figure can be changed if the employee’s benefits are more or less than 33% of salary, and you wish to use the actual rate.
    • Benefits for graduate students include the student health fee only.
    • For undergraduates, include 8% of salary for social security, unemployment and workers compensation.

  • Enter amounts for foreign and domestic travel separately.
  • Include costs for travel to meetings with collaborators, work sites, or conferences to disseminate results.
  • Check web sites such as Expedia.com to get flight costs.
  • Use CONUS rates when figuring per diem costs.
  • All travel costs should be detailed in the budget justification.[/fold]
  • Printing/Duplicating costs include report preparation and publication, and page costs for publishing in journals. For federally funded projects, it does not include routine copying in the office.

  • Communications costs include long distance telephone calls and postage/shipping specific to the project. It includes port fees for internet connections for individuals devoted 100% to the project.

  • Maintenance and repair costs must be for equipment that is used to complete the project.

  • Most projects include some type of expendable, consumable supplies and materials.
  • Costs for supplies should be itemized, at least by category.
  • Mice are categorized as supplies in the budget.
  • Software packages and memory upgrades to existing computers are classified as supplies. Software packages and any memory upgrade must relate specifically to the project.
  • General-purpose computers and laptops are not an allowable cost on a federally-funded sponsored project. If a computer is required to be purchased on a federally-funded project it must be used only for the project. It cannot have any personal productivity software. If purchased, the responsible person must be able to prove, at all times, that the computer is used solely for the project. If your project requires a computer that meets these criteria and you plan to budget for it, you must complete and submit the Direct Charge Justification form with your proposal.
  • General office supplies are not allowed as direct costs on a federally-funded project. Pens, pencils, paper, filing supplies, post-it notes cannot be charged to the project.

  • Equipment is defined as nonexpendable property costing $5,000 per unit or more and having at least 3 years of useful life.
  • Equipment should be itemized in the budget justification, including type of equipment, model number, price and how the price was derived, and how the equipment will be used to support the project.
  • F&A is not collected on equipment items.

  • If the project requires the transfer of programmatic effort to another educational institution or company, a subcontract is required. As compared to a consultant or contract, the subcontractor is involved in the design of the study, has substantial responsibility for the performance and completion of the work, and is a collaborator.
  • Subcontracts are entered into with other institutions or organizations, not individuals.
  • The proposed subcontractor must provide a scope of work, detailed budget, budget justification, and Subrecipient Commitment Form. This documentation must be attached in PAMS and submitted with the proposal.
  • Each subcontract should be listed separately as a line item in the budget.
  • F&A is collected on only the first $25,000 of each subcontract, regardless of the number of years the subcontract is in place.

  • Consultants
    • A consultant is usually an expert or a professional in a specific field.
    • A consultant either works for a consulting firm or is self-employed.
    • Consultants charge on an hourly rate basis.
    • A letter of commitment might be required by the sponsor and if so should be included with the proposal.
    • Consultant must complete the Consultant Commitment Form.
  • Contractors
    • Contractors provide a specialized service and are a commercial enterprise, not an individual.
    • They are usually fee for service.
    • They provide similar goods and services to many different purchasers.
    • They have no substantial scientific input into the overall conduct of the study.
    • These can be services provided by other University departments such as laboratory sampling, equipment service agreements, data analysis, animal cage charges, etc.
    • Include a quote or other cost information with the budget justification if the contractor has been identified. Otherwise, estimate the costs for the type of service.
    • Include a description of services to be provided in the budget justification.
  • Professional Services
    • Professional services are provided by individuals under contract to the University.
    • Examples of services include: instruction, statistical analysis, subject matter expertise, joint faculty agreements.
    • Include a quote with the budget justification, or other cost information, and a description of services.
  • Membership Fees
    • When membership fees to a professional association are paid by a sponsor, the membership is for the institution (UT), not the individual.
  • Participant Support Costs
    • Includes costs for transportation, per diem, stipends, and other related costs for participants or trainees attending project-sponsored symposia, workshops, meetings, etc.
    • Includes costs for human subjects in the form of stipends, transportation costs, child care, etc., when participating in a study.
  • Animal cage costs

  • If the GRA(s) is being paid salary on the project, their tuition and student health fee must be included in the budget.
  • The department may elect to pay some or all of the GRA tuition. If so, a commitment letter from the authorized departmental representative is required.
  • Check here for the most current tuition rates.
  • Plan for a tuition rate increase of at least 5-10% per year.
  • No F&A is collected on the GRA tuition.

  • A total of all direct costs in the budget.

  • When using an F&A rate derived from UT’s Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (F&A) (a “full” rate), the rate is applied to a BASE of Modified Total Direct Costs or MTDC. The BASE excludes GRA tuition, equipment over $5,000, and the cost of subcontracts over $25,000.
  • NSF budgets exclude participant support costs from the Base of MTDC.[/fold]
  • When using a lower F&A rate that is set by the sponsor, the BASE to which the lower rate is applied will be equal to the Total Direct Costs.
  • Include the amount of F&A for the project budget. See Bob or Kelly with any questions you may have about F&A.

  • Total direct and indirect (F&A) costs.

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