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IMPORTANT NOTE: This guide is a general reference and is not meant to be a substitute for our University policies & regulations. Be sure to consult the University’s policies and/or contact us.

Preparing

Preparing Accurate Budgets and Thorough Budget Justifications

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Explore this section of the guide for helpful resources related to the following:

  • Creating budgets that are the best estimate of how we will accomplish our project goals
  • Writing budget justifications in sufficient detail to explain project costs

The first section on developing and managing sound budgets is important since we are generally required to adhere to the budget’s structure for the life of the project. Budget revisions can be requested, but there are no guarantees that changes will be approved by the sponsor.

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References in the RFP

Look for Budget References in the Solicitation/RFP

The solicitation usually contains guidance on the budget requirements as well as any other restrictions mandated by the sponsor.

The following items are examples of the types of restrictions or guidance found in a solicitation that could affect the budget:

  • Limits on the amount of funding and start/end dates allowed
  • Allowable and unallowable costs related to salaries, equipment, and other budget categories
  • Limits on certain costs (including salary, equipment, indirect costs)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Requirements or restrictions that affect the budget may be found in various sections, so do your best to review all of the solicitation to avoid missing any important information that could affect the budget.

Check Financial Compliance Standards

Whether you are helping prepare a budget or reviewing a budget, be sure to check all entries to verify that they follow sponsor requirements and meet university compliance and pre-audit responsibilities.

Make sure that you are familiar with all of the rules outlined in the Sponsored Programs and Regulatory Compliance (SPARCS) and Contracts and Grants (C&G) sites. Pay particular attention to the budgeting section of the SPARCS web site and the Cost Accounting Standards section of the C&G site.

SPARCS Budgeting Guidelines

Open the Budgeting Guidelines section of the SPARCS site. Click through all of the Budget menu items to thoroughly review each section.

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Cost Accounting Standards

Review C&G Cost Accounting Standards Page

Open the Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) section of our C&G site.

Review the content now and you will also find more detailed information in Financial Compliance of this SPA Guide.

More Information on Computers and Peripherals

You may also want to review FAQ’s on Computers and Peripherals (PDF), a 2010 handout from a Q&A session conducted by the Office of Contracts and Grants. You may also e-mail CNGHelpDesk@ncsu.edu if you have any further questions about the allow-ability of any charges.

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SPA computers excerpt

SPARCS Budgeting Guidelines

Review SPARCS Budgeting Guidelines

Open the Budgeting Guidelines section of the SPARCS site. Click through all of the Budget menu items and thoroughly review each section.

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Check Math & Rates

Check the Math and Current Rates!

SPA Check the Math!

This simple advice will go a long way toward easier award management.

Watch out for the top four mistakes made here on campus related to proposal budgets:

  • Using an incorrect fringe benefit rate
  • Using an incorrect F&A/indirect rate
  • Not calculating the correct F&A/indirect base
  • Not double-checking the math calculations

To make sure that our budgets have the correct rates, be sure to continually check the following rate sites for revised rates rather than relying on printed copies that may be out-of-date.

You may also want to save the Proposal Budgeting Checklist as a reminder to reduce errors in your review steps.

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Samples and Templates

Take a look at the following samples and templates for your use. If you have any budgeting tools that you use in your college, please share the information or sample tool with us.

Budget Templates

Take a look at the following samples and templates for your use. If you have any budgeting tools that you use in your college, please share the information or sample tool with us.

You may use the following budget templates as starting points to build or revise your own. Be sure to verify the latest rates online before relying on any of the pre-filled percentages.

Click the two Excel spreadsheet links below to access university wide Excel Workbook budget samples created by the Office of Contracts and Grants. There are two versions: one for Colleges opting to budget at the detail level and one for those opting to budget at the summary level.

SPA Budget Template Detail

SPA Budget Template Summary

College Templates

Click the two Excel spreadsheet links below to access other Excel budget samples created by two Colleges here at the University. These will need to be updated with current rates before using.

SPA College Template #1

SPA College Template #2

Budget Sample

Click the budget links below to access and review a sample University sponsored project budget in Excel or PDF format.(Please remember that this is a sample budget only and may contain out-of-date rates such as travel, fringe, and other rates that can change periodically.)

SPA Budget Sample

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Budget Justifications

Budget Justification

Budget Justifications are an important component of a successful proposal. The justification must provide a thorough explanation of how the anticipated costs will support the project objectives and include details on how these costs were derived.

For example, if attending a conference is not part of the original proposal, including a PI’s related conference registration fees to attend a conference must be explained in the Budget Justification. Since conference registration fees must be in direct support of a project, it should specify that the PI’s attendance includes related activities such as presenting the project’s results or gathering information related to the project’s outcomes. (In addition, all costs associated with the conference must be verifiable and the registration receipt and conference itinerary detailing events and meals served must be retained for verification.)

Sample & Template

Access a Budget Justification Sample (Word). After clicking the link to open the document in Word, you can click the document links to go directly to the related SPARCS web pages for related rates and other information as you review the sample.

Access a Budget Justification Template that includes instructions and formatting that you can use in preparing your own Budget Justifications.

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SPA Budget JustificationSPA SPARCS Budget Justification

Checklist

Proposal Budgeting Checklist

You may find the following checklist helpful in managing the budgeting part of the proposal process. Click the link or image for the Proposal budget checklist (PDF).

SPA Budgeting QRG

  • All math calculations double-checked?
  • Budget justification written?
  • All appropriate approvals received or scheduled to meet submission deadline?

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Errors in Rush Reviews

Avoid Rush Reviews Cause Errors

Do your part to seek required approvals with enough lead time to avoid rush reviews at all levels.

As presented in Proposal Development, using and managing the deadlines in a workable Project Plan is essential for avoiding budgeting and other errors.

If you have a good method or software package that you use in your college, please share the information or sample tool with us.

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