Budget Justification

The budget justification is a breakdown of your proposed budget in a narrative format, and is used to "justify" the expenses identified for the project.  The level of detail in a budget justification will be driven by the complexity of the grant project and by the requirements of the funding agency. Budget narratives need to withstand the scrutiny of grant reviewers and program officers. In short, the budget justification should:

  • Follow funding agency guidelines.
  • Provide as much detail and justification as necessary.
  • Be organized in the order of the line items in the detailed budget (spreadsheet).
  • Explain why each of the items is needed to accomplish the scope of work.
  • Make it clear that all budget requests are reasonable and consistent with sponsor and Saint Mary’s policies.
  • Make it clear that the Principal Investigator has the experience and authority to defend that the budget is reasonable and thorough.

The funding agency guidelines often list different categories or criteria allowable in a budget, so the following should be seen as a general template. Below are the main categories of most budgets, with an explanation of that category (“Description”), followed by a sample entry (“Example”):

General Budget Categories:

I.     Salaries and Wages (Personnel)

II.    Fringe Benefits (Personnel)

III.   Equipment

IV.   Travel

V.    Participant/Trainee Support

VI.   Other Direct Costs

VII.  Indirect Costs

I. Personnel Costs

Description: As you determine the personnel who will perform work under the grant, give the name, title, the amount of time s/he will commit to working on the project, and what s/he will be trying to accomplish. For regular employees, salaries should be listed as a percentage of their base academic or calendar year salary, e.g. 10% of AY salary. Summer salary is listed as a fraction of the base academic year salary for the faculty member, e.g. 2/9s summer salary.

Senior Personnel

Description: This category includes anyone who is a PI, Co-PI, or Project Director. If a PI or PD is due for a significant salary increase, budget for the increase in the year it will be received. In normal budget years, a 3% annual inflation rate is built into multi-year budgets.


Principal Investigator

Dr. Green will insure that the research goals are met in a timely manner, with integrity, completed within budgeted amounts, and within compliance regulations. He will be responsible for the collection of data, preparation of requested agency reports, disseminating materials, and supervising student researchers. These duties will require 20% of his time devoted to the project during the AY for years 1-3. Dr. Green requires 20% release time from his teaching load because Saint Mary’s is a teaching institution where faculty carry a teaching load of 4/3 per AY, in addition to advising and other functions. Therefore the release time will be necessary to make steady progress on the research during the academic year.

Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. White will serve as the advisor to the PI and other project participants. Her duties will include design and execution, technical training to our team members, organizing group meetings and seminars, and program evaluation. This will require 1.5 summer months for each year of the project.

Other Personnel

Description: Common personnel types budgeted include Professional Staff, Research Associates, and Undergraduate Student Research Assistants. Student employment at Saint Mary's is handled by Financial Aid so you will need to confer with that office to determine applicable rates of pay and limits on the number of hours per week a student can work, both during the AY and during the summer.


Project Assistant

The Project Assistant will be responsible for distributing data to all collaborating sites, coordinating conference calls, and assisting the Principal Investigator with the management of the budget.

Student Research Assistant

Funding is requested for one student research assistant ($15/hour x 20 hours/week x 28 weeks=$8,400). The student will be involved with the collection of survey data, its review and analysis, and will maintain the survey database.

II. Fringe Benefits

Description: Fringe Benefits can change yearly, and should be confirmed before submitting your budget. Contact the Business Office to find out the current fringe benefit rate.  In 2011-2012, the fringe benefit rate is 31% for a full-time employee/ faculty at Saint Mary’s College. For part-time employees (less than 32 hours/week) a 10% rate is used to cover required contributions such as FICA.


Fringe benefits include all mandated federal and state/local payroll taxes, such as FICA, Workers Compensation, Unemployment Insurance, and Medicare. Additional benefits may include health, vision, dental, life insurance, and 401K contribution. Fringe benefits are billed at the actual rate for full-time Saint Mary’s employees, which is 31%.

III. Equipment

Description: Equipment is defined as a single item that has a useful life of more than one year and a unit cost of at least $5,000. However, if an item consists of parts that are only functional when assembled, that is considered one item.


An Agilent 6000ILM atomic force miscroscope (AFM) will be purchased for use on this project. AFM is the vanguard tool for imaging, measuring, and manipulating matter at the nanoscale and so necessary for the work of training graduate students for cutting-edge research in the life sciences. Included is a quote from our vendor.

IV. Travel

Description: When possible, list “who, what, when, where, and why.” With federal grant budgets, organize travel costs separately for domestic vs. international travel.  List total amount requested with a breakdown of expenses, e.g., airfare, hotel, per diem, and mileage reimbursement. If you know which conferences you will be attending, providing this detail would be helpful, as this is one gauge of the breadth of work you will be doing, presenting results and participating in academic exchange. Some federal granting agencies may require the PI to attend an agency-sponsored conference. So, read the grant guidelines carefully to ensure that you have included any required travel.

Costs must be prudent.  Saint Mary's College allows per diem expenses at 80% of the federal allowable reimbursement rate under the "High-Low" method. Right now, the reimbursable rate is $42 for lesser expensive cities and $52 for more expensive cities. To find the list of cities, go to the IRS web site and review Publication 1542 at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1542.pdf.  For other travel related policies, refer to the College employee handbook.  Federal grants require that airfare be booked on a U.S. carrier to comply with the Fly America Act (49 U.S.C. 40118) and only provide for economy air fare.

If international travel is involved, Saint Mary’s may require additional travel insurance, so check with the Business Office on current costs.


Domestic Travel

We request support for the PI and the Co-PI to attend an annual conference in Washington D.C. for each year of the project to present research results. Round Trip economy airfare is estimated at $500 per person per trip. Per diem is estimated at $200 per day for each day of the three-day conference.

Funds are also included for the PI and Co-PI to travel to district schools to recruit teachers for the professional development summer seminars. Mileage: .50¢/mile x 500 miles=$250.

Foreign Travel

We request support for Dr. Green to travel to Chile to perform on-site collection of mineral samples from the Atacama Desert. Airfare is estimated at $1,000. Per diem is estimated at $215 per day for each day of the 10-day trip. Visa fee is $100. Fees for a local driver are estimated @ $50/day x 10 days=$500. Additional insurance for foreign travel is $65.

V. Participant/Trainee Support

Description: This category refers to the costs of stipends, tuition, transportation, per diem, and any other costs associated with participants or trainees participating in conferences, meetings, and other professional development activities. This cost category is unique in three ways: (a) the Indirect Cost Rate is usually not applied to this category; (b) these costs cannot be for employees of Saint Mary’s or for Saint Mary’s faculty while under contract; and (c) these costs by and large cannot be used for other budget categories.

VI. Other Direct Costs

Description: “Other” direct costs can only be charged to a grant if (a) they can be readily and specifically identified with that particular project and (b) comply with the funding agency's program guidelines.  Though different grant mechanisms allow or disallow various “other” direct costs, typical allowable “other” direct costs include the following:

  • Materials and Supplies
  • Publication/Dissemination Costs
  • Consultant Services
  • Computer Services
  • Subawards/Subcontracts
  • Construction/Renovation
  • Other (shipping, long distance/international phone charges, advertising, and similar project-specific costs)


Consultant Services: $5,000 is requested to support an independent evaluator for this project. The evaluator will provide both formative (mid-project) and summative (end project) evaluation. For each visit, Dr. Brown will be reimbursed @ $200/day x 8 working days (5 working days conducting an on-site visit to our campus and 3 working days to write up the report). Round trip economy airfare is estimated @ $400, with lodging, meals and incidental expenses estimated at $100/day for the 5-day on-site visit. Total per evaluation=$2,500 x 2 evaluations=$5,000.

Supplies: Laboratory supplies including chemicals, glassware, and disposables are required for processing the samples collected. Other laboratory supplies will be needed such as lab notebooks, filters for the water purification system, liquid nitrogen and dry ice. Total cost for supplies each year is estimated at $1,500.

VII. Indirect Cost Rate (ICR)


Generally, indirect costs are defined as administrative or other expenses that are not directly allocable to a particular activity or project; rather they are related to overall general operations and are shared among projects and/or functions (Indirect costs are sometimes referred to as “overhead costs”). Examples include accounting, utilities, technology support, and facility maintenance. Indirect cost rates are also called Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rates. For most federal grants (unless restricted by the program guidelines), the Indirect Cost Rate is applied against “Modified Total Direct Costs” (MDTC). The MDTC amount equals the “Total Direct Costs” minus 5 categories: (i) Equipment, (ii) Capital Expenditures, (iii) Participant Support, (iv) Off-site Rent, and (v) any amount in excess of the first $25,000 of Subcontracts.