Section 6: Accounting for Grants and Contracts
Establishment and Financial Management of Recharge Centers and Specialized Service Facilities
Kerry Kennedy, Vice President for Business AffairsLenora Chapman, Associate Vice President, Financial Affairs
Last Revised On:
For Assistance Contact:
Assistant Vice President, Financial Affairs and Controller
This guideline provides a framework for the fiscal operations of the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) recharge centers and specialized service facilities to ensure compliance with federal cost principles and consistency in accounting and costing practices. All recharge centers and specialized service facilities must maintain common accounting and administrative practices despite variations in volume and complexity of goods and services rendered. This guideline is not applicable to auxiliary enterprises (for information on auxiliary enterprises see Handbook of Operating Procedures 9.42 - Auxiliary Enterprises).
As a recipient of federal funds, UTSA must comply with OMB Circular A-21, Cost Principles for Educational Institutions, as published by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Table of Contents
B. Establishment of Service Centers
C. Requirements for External Customers
D. Billing Rates Billing Procedures
F. Accounting Guidelines Records Retention
In this guideline recharge centers and specialized service facilities are referred to collectively as “service centers.” Service centers are UTSA units that provide goods and/or services to users, primarily within UTSA, and recover costs through charges to users for the goods and services.
There are three major types of service centers at UTSA:
1. Research recharge centers provide services and access to equipment and tools for research activities for a fee. The Kleberg Advanced Microscopy Center is an example of a research recharge center.
2. Institutional recharge centers reallocate costs from a central Cost Center to users throughout UTSA. The rates charged represent a redistribution of expenses and not a fee for goods provided or services rendered. Examples include Facilities Services and Facilities Coordinated Projects.
3. Specialized service facilities (SSFs) are highly complex or specialized facilities that offer services that are not readily available from outside sources. Additional criteria for designation as a specialized service facility include but are not limited to the amount of total annual revenue and the significance of revenue from federal awards. An example is the Laboratory Animal Resource Center.
Because service centers may directly or indirectly charge federal grants and contracts, UTSA must comply with the cost principles and accounting standards required by OMB Circular A-21, Cost Principles for Educational Institutions.
The request to establish a new service center must be submitted to the Director, Grants and Contracts Financial Services (GCFS) for initial review using the UTSA Service Center Information Sheet. This information sheet is also used when a service center intends to expand its customer base to include external users , to add additional services or to update billing rates.
The approval of the Director of the unit involved and/or Dean and the appropriate Vice President is required. Specialized service facilities also require the approval of the Vice President for Research (VPR) or designee.
GCFS or designated costing personnel will review the request with the initiator. Final budget and billing rates will be presented to the Associate Vice President for Financial Affairs (AVPFA) or the Assistant Vice President for Financial Affairs/Controller for final approval.
An external customer is a customer that does not pay using a UTSA Cost Center/Project ID, such as a faculty member or student acting in an individual capacity. A unilateral agreement signed by the customer is required for all external customers ( see Appendix A). The agreement may not be revised or edited in any way. The billing schedule may be appended to the document along with a full description of the goods/services to be provided. The agreement should be reviewed by the official to whom the service center reports to determine the appropriateness of the proposed work. These agreements must be kept on file by the service center.
Revenues from external customers must be tracked separately.
External customers who identify themselves as federally funded must provide appropriate documentation (e.g., a copy of the federal award that is paying for the services). Contact GCFS for assistance in such cases.
Service centers must collect sales tax from external customers who do not provide an exemption certificate or otherwise prove that they are exempt.
- Charges to external customers may result in a liability for unrelated business income tax (UBIT) which is paid by the service center. For information on UBIT contact the Office of Financial Services and University Bursar.
- Internal billing rates should be designed to recover the direct costs of the goods/ services provided. Indirect costs of operating the service center that are paid by UTSA and not charged to the recharge center Cost Center (operating account) cannot be included in the calculation of billing rates.
- All UTSA internal customers must be charged the same rate for the same level of service under the same circumstances.
- Federal grants and contracts administered by UTSA are internal customers.
- Federal grants or contracts must be charged a rate equal to or lower than the rate charged to any other customer.
- Federal grants and contracts cannot be charged for goods/services provided free of charge to other customers.
- To determine the billing rate, the total annual costs to provide the goods or services plus or minus any surplus/deficit from the prior year is divided by total annual usage:
EXAMPLE: Billing Rate = Budgeted operating costs ± prior year adjustment/expected units of activity (customer base)
- All costs must be reasonable, allowable, allocable and consistently treated. Unallowable costs cannot be budgeted or expensed on service center Cost Centers. See OMB Circular A-21, Section J for guidance on allowable and unallowable costs.
- Allowable costs include but are not limited to:
- Salaries, wages, fringe benefits
- Materials and supplies
- Equipment lease or rental
- Equipment maintenance contracts/repairs
- Postage and telephone
- Non-capitalized equipment (unit cost less than $5,000)
- Travel expenses related to center business
- Unallowable costs cannot be included in internal billing rate calculations. Typical unallowable costs include but are not limited to:
- Advertising and public relations costs
- Alcoholic beverages
- Bad debts or uncollected billings
- Contingency provisions
- Cost of equipment $5,000 or greater per item
- Entertainment costs
- Fines and penalties
- Goods/services for personal use
- Insurance and indemnification
- Memberships, subscriptions and professional activity costs of a social or individual nature
- Selling and marketing costs
- The cost of capital equipment purchases may not be charged to the service center Cost Center (operating account), but the cost of capital equipment purchased with non-federal funds may be recovered by including a depreciation component in the billing rate (straight-line depreciation over the useful life of the equipment). The depreciation portion of annual revenue is transferred to the recharge center equipment reserve, which will be used to purchase replacement equipment. Service Center equipment is identified in the asset management system to ensure that the related depreciation is not included in the Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rate calculation.
- User rates must be supported by cost calculations based on historical costs and service levels. Estimated rates may only be used in the first year of service.
- A service center may have different measurable units for different types and classes of goods/services offered. User rates consisting of flat fees that charge per range of actual use (e.g. light, medium or heavy) are not in compliance with cost accounting standards. Centers providing multiple services may not subsidize the cost of certain services by charging excessive rates for other services.
- Recharge center non-federal external billing rates should recover all costs, both direct and the appropriate indirect costs. These rates should include a surcharge at least equivalent to the current approved Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rate. For more information on F&A costs see Financial Management Operational Guideline (FMOG) - Grants and Contracts Accounting Practices.
- External rates should not be so low as to constitute unfair competition with private enterprise for similar goods/services available in the area.
- At no time should an external customer be charged less than internal customers or the federal government for the same service.
- See Appendix D for an example of billing rate calculations for recharge centers.
- SSF rates should recover all costs, both direct and the appropriate indirect costs.
- SSF rates must be designed to recover only the aggregate costs (direct and indirect) of providing the goods/services.
- All customers of an SSF, including internal, external, federal and non-federal, must be charged the same rate for the same service. This is to ensure that all costs related to the SSF’s highly specialized goods/services (including applicable indirect costs), are charged directly to the users, and not allocated to awards that do not benefit from the SSF’s goods/services.
NOTE: Service centers are required to review and update rates annually.
- All customers must be billed consistently, timely (no less than quarterly) and accurately for goods/services received. User bills must have sufficient detail to identify the goods/services provided. Billings must be based upon measured and documented use.
- Billings to internal customers are charged through Interdepartmental Transfers of expense (IDTs). Sufficient detail must be included to identify the goods/services provided, billing rates and usage. For internal customers, a copy of the required project agreement (Appendix C) should be attached as authorization to charge the Cost Center/Project ID .
- Service centers must comply with UTSA cash handling and billing procedures. Some external customers may be subject to sales tax, which is collected by the service center. For more information, see FMOGs Cash Handling and Management and Processing Cash Payments.
- All invoices to external customers must be on UTSA letterhead. Service centers may customize invoices, but all invoices must include the elements shown in Appendix B.
- Advance billings are not allowed. “Pre-billing” customers at year-end for goods/services to be delivered in the next fiscal year is prohibited.
- Payments must be deposited to the associated service center Cost Center.
- Accounts receivable will be recorded on the same schedule as customer billing. Fund receipts will be applied to accounts receivable.
Service centers may have multiple Cost Centers in which to record revenue and expenditures depending upon the customer base.
- A single Service Center Fund Cost Center will be used to record all income and expenditures derived from internal customers .
- A separate Designated Fund Cost Center will be established for external customers.
- A single Designated Fund Cost Center will be used for multiple external agreements that are less than $5,000 per agreement.
- Individual Designated Fund Cost Centers must be established for each external agreement totaling $5,000 or more.
- A separate Equipment Reserve Cost Center may be established in the Designated Fund for recovery of depreciation on equipment purchased with non-federal funds.
For more information on Service Center and Designated Funds see FMOG - Chart of Accounts.
All costs related to the operation of service centers must be recorded in specified Cost Centers within Service Center or Designated F unds . This includes salaries, fringe benefits, supplies and related travel costs. Shared expenses must be allocated on an equitable basis to all user Cost Centers/Project IDs.
See “Billing Rates” for examples of allowable and unallowable costs.
Service centers should target break-even goals through proper budgeting, rate setting and billing practices. Service c enters are responsible for comparing actual costs and revenues at the end of each fiscal year and taking appropriate action.
- Deficit Balances: S ervice centers may not operate for more than one complete fiscal year with a deficit account balance unless approved by the A V P F A . Any center with a deficit of more than 10% of operating costs must provide GCFS with a written plan to eliminate the deficit. This plan may include one or a combination of the following:
- Rate increases sufficient to liquidate the deficit
- A transfer of funds from another UTSA department
- Surplus Balances: Surplus balances greater than 10% of operating costs will be reduced by rate reductions . Surplus balances up to 10% of operating costs may be carried forward as an operating reserve. Surplus amounts will not be transferred from service center Cost Centers to subsidize other university operations or to purchase goods/services for operations unrelated to the service center unless the transfer is to a Cost Center which previously provided a subsidy to cover an operating deficit or provided start-up funds.
G C F S conducts periodic reviews of institutional recharge centers, and the Office of the VPR conducts reviews of research recharge centers and specialized service facilities for compliance with this guideline. GCFS may also review break-even and other financial information of research recharge centers and specialized service facilities, but the Office of the VPR has the primary responsibility for review of research recharge centers and specialized service facilities.
Annual reviews include, but are not limited to:
- consistent, accurate and timely billing of customers
- appropriate accounting for allowable and unallowable costs and subsidies
- attainment of break-even goals and the treatment of any surpluses or deficits
Biennial reviews (per OMB Circular A-21) include, but are not limited to:
- billing rates and practices, including annual update of rates and methodology for calculating rates
- adequacy of record keeping procedures
Service centers must maintain a schedule of current billing rates to be made available upon request.
- If fees cannot be set at a rate sufficient to recover operating costs, another department may not directly pay the operating costs of a service center . The subsidy must be accomplished as a transfer of funds to the service center Cost Center. The transfer is not accounted for as revenue or negative expense .
- Any partial subsidy of a center either included as part of the budget or absorbed as a deficit at the end of the fiscal year must be identified as an unallowable cost for F&A rate calculation purposes.
- A class of users (e.g., students) may receive service at a reduced fee if the discount is subsidized from another source, but not through a reduction or elimination of the billing. The subsidy must be deposited in the Cost Center as income to avoid misstating either usage or revenue.
Documents and other records that must be retained by service centers include but are not limited to:
- Work papers showing how billing rate s were calculated
- Approval of rate s
- Records supporting the level of activity and units of goods/service provided including an annual usage schedule for each billing rate. All usage of billable equipment must be tracked. For example, if the rate is census based, a cumulative census by species/lab must be tracked. If the rate is hourly based, total hours must be tracked.
- External and internal customer agreements
- Other records as necessary to document:
- actual direct operating costs of providing the goods/services
- revenues, billings and collections
- annual surplus or deficit
- customer charges, including invoices and other records that identify the goods/services provided to each customer
Break Even Goal
Service Centers should develop billing rates with the goal of recovering costs (breaking even) rather than making a profit. Revenues should equal operating costs over a reasonable period of time.
Surplus Service Center revenue up to 10% of operating costs may be carried forward to the next year as an operating reserve.
External customers are those who do not pay for goods/services through interdepartmental transfers (IDTs) against funds held in a UTSA Cost Center/Project ID, such as individuals or organizations outside of UTSA, or students or faculty acting in an individual capacity. Use of UTSA resources for providing goods/services to external customers must be consistent with the primary missions of instruction, research, and public service. A unilateral agreement signed by the customer is required (see Appendix A). See Section C “Requirements for External Customers” for additional requirements prior to providing goods/services to external customers.
Internal customers are defined as those paying for goods and services through interdepartmental transfers (IDTs) against funds held in a UTSA Cost Center/Project ID . Goods/services provided to internal customers require a Project Agreement (see Appendix C) signed by the requesting party. This agreement serves as supporting documentation to be kept on file by the service center. A copy of the agreement should be attached to the IDT as authorization to charge the Cost Center/Project ID .
An activity that provides goods and/or performs specific technical or administrative services primarily for the internal operations of UTSA, and is authorized to charge users for its services. A service center may also provide goods/services to external customers. Separate Cost Centers are established and monitored to record all costs and revenues.
Specialized Service Facility (SSF)
A highly complex or specialized facility that provides services that are not readily available from outside sources - for example, animal care facilities. Separate Cost Centers must be established to record all costs and revenues associated with specialized service facilities .
A surplus is the amount by which revenue exceeds operating costs, and a deficit is the amount by which operating costs exceed revenue.
Funds available to the service center which have been carried forward from prior year surplus amounts. Operating reserves may not exceed 10% of service center operating costs.
- O M B Circular A-110 , Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Other Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals and Other Non-Profit Organizations
• Financial Management Operational Guideline (FMOG):
Cash Handling and Management
Processing Cash Payments
- Billing Rate Calculation Example (Appendix D)
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