Fiscal Management


The Project Director is responsible for ensuring that the project is conducted within the limits of the budget approved by the funding agency. Budget revisions are typically allowable provided they are consistent with the terms of the grant or contract, i.e. notification to the funder prior to change in budget. Expenditures must not exceed grant support. If support falls short of the budgeted amount, then the Project Director must adjust spending levels as necessary.

The authority to use budgets for their intended purposes is inherently provided to the Project Director. To assure an orderly process and reasonable controls, University purchasing guidelines and procedures should be followed. The formal purchasing process consists of three distinct steps: a request for goods, an authorizing order, and, ultimately, a payment.

These steps are interdependent and are supported by the use of distinct forms. For most expenditures (generally those less than $500) either an Invoice, or a Business Office Disbursements Voucher is the only form needed to complete a transaction. To purchase goods that cost $500 or more, a more formal purchasing procedure is required. This procedure integrates purchasing, inventory and depreciation accounting, as well as providing a measure of control for major purchases. The University Services Office can assist departments in locating goods and researching competitive pricing as needed. A detailed description of University purchasing policies and procedures can be found at:

Cost overruns or deficits in grant/contract and campus program accounts are the responsibility of Washington and Lee. When submitting expenditures against projects, Project Directors are responsible for ensuring that the costs being charged are specific to the project charged and that the costs are allowable, reasonable and allocable. The following federal definitions provide you with general information concerning such costs.

  • Allowable and Unallowable Costs

    OMB A-21 "Cost Principles for Educational Institutions," Section J states the federal government definitions and examples of allowable and unallowable cost. Examples of Allowable Costs include direct costs related to the specific scope and objective of the project, (i.e., personnel, communication costs, operating supplies and materials, travel, equipment and other project related costs). Examples of Unallowable Costs include alcoholic beverages, bad debts, alumni activities, commencement and convocation costs, donations and contributions, entertainment costs, and lobbying costs.
  • Reasonable Cost

    A cost may be considered reasonable if the nature of the goods or services acquired or applied, and the amount involved, reflect the actions a prudent person would have taken under the circumstances prevailing at the time the decision to incur the cost was made.
  • Allocable cost

    A cost is "allocable" to a particular cost objective (i.e., a specific function, project, sponsored agreement) if the goods or services involved are chargeable or assignable to such cost objective in accordance with relative benefits received or other equitable relationships.

You may find the full Circular ("To The Heads of Executive Departments and Establishments") here.

Faculty Salary

No one may be compensated for more than 100% of their time. One exception is grant activities performed during the summer months: "determined for each faculty member at a rate not in excess of the base salary divided by the period to which the base salary relates." OMB Circular A-21, Section J, subpart 3 (d)(2)(a)

Purchasing Procedures

The Project Director is responsible for the purchase of all goods and services for the project and for ensuring that such purchases comply with procedures applicable to the grant. This includes making certain that competitive purchasing procedures are followed. In all cases, purchases should be at reasonable prices and for bona fide purposes consistent with the needs of the project. Moreover, the Project Director shall ensure that all purchases are within the budget established for the project.


Frequently, equipment may only be purchased by a grant if it was included in the proposal. Otherwise, the purchase of equipment requires special authorization by the grantor. Accordingly, before purchasing equipment, the Project Director shall ensure that the proper authorization has been granted under the terms of the grant.


The Project Director or his/her designee is responsible for arranging transportation, lodging, or other accommodations as required. The Project Director is responsible for ensuring that travel arrangements are consistent with any restrictions of the grant as applicable. State and federal grants generally contain specific provisions regarding travel including, for instance, restrictions on air travel.

Upon completion of a Travel Expense Voucher, the University will reimburse travelers for all reasonable expenses. In no case will reimbursement be for amounts in excess of actual expenditures. All travelers are expected to be reasonable and prudent in the selection of accommodations, meals, and method of travel. The following guidelines will generally apply:


Air coach or other intermediate class should be used in the interest of economy whenever available. Use of a personal vehicle will be reimbursed at the current rate in effect for the University - 37.5 cents/mile. Use of a rental vehicle is allowable when such travel is more advantageous than the use of taxis or other means of transportation. Taxi and limousine service including reasonable tips are allowable if no other reasonable means of public transportation is available; substantiation of use will be requested.

Subsistence Expenses

Meals and tips will be reimbursed at actual cost. Hotel expense will be reimbursed at actual cost provided it is reasonable for the given area. Other necessary expenses shall be reimbursed provided they are properly explained (includes registration fees, parking fees, etc.) Travelers shall complete the University Travel Expense voucher (see Appendix D) in order to be reimbursed for the cost of travel. This form shall be submitted to the Business Office within 10 days after return from the trip. It requires the following information:

  • Purpose and dates of travel and expenses by day.
  • Invoices for lodging and ticket stubs for commercial transportation including rental cars.
  • Total miles driven per day, as applicable.
  • Itemized receipts are required for all expenses. Detailed explanation of items for nominal amounts without receipts are required.

Additional Costs

Telephone and Copier Use

It is University policy to allow research projects to use University copiers and telephones including making long-distance calls. The University will not charge the project for such use provided it is nominal and not frequent or excessive. Project Directors who require more extensive use of these services shall make arrangements with the Business Office to establish an account for billing purposes.


It is University policy to allow research projects to use the University's mail services for nominal routine correspondence without charge. Projects requiring more extensive use of such services including large volume or bulk mailings will be charged directly.

Indirect Costs

Indirect cost charges are intended to reimburse the University for the Project's use of University facilities and equipment used in research activities in addition to covering a share of the University's general and administrative costs or overhead. Please consult with the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations for guidance on Indirect Costs.

Cost Sharing/Matching Requirement

Certain federal agencies encourage or require cost sharing by the University. Cost sharing may be in the form of past or current support of related work by non-federal sources. This includes direct contributions or in-kind goods and services from the University, private foundations, or industry.

Many funded projects require matching resources that are contributed to a sponsored project over and above the support provided by the external sponsor of that project. Such resources are required of the Foundation by the sponsor as a condition of the award, to "match" the sponsor's support. Funds required might be an arbitrary portion, a fixed amount, or resources from non-University sources pledged in partial support of a project in the form of a Cash Match or In-Kind Match.

Mandatory Cost Share/Match should be written into the proposal budget. Project Directors are responsible for securing all Cost Share/Match requirements and must submit required documentation to the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations for verification of the cost share/match, then to the Provost's Office for approval.

Cash Advances

Cash advances will be obtained when allowable; otherwise, billings will be on an expense reimbursement basis during the course of the project. When billings require that a report be filed describing project activities to date, it is the responsibility of the Project Director to provide such information on a timely basis. Any checks or other cash receipts collected by the Project Director directly shall be immediately forwarded to the Business Office.