The Administrative and Budget Office within the A&S Dean’s Office is the best place to start with any questions about budgets, purchases, and other money-related matters. While in the past chairs were encouraged to contact the University’s Accounts Payable office, in recent years Accounts Payable has been referring departments back to the Dean’s Office for answers.
You can find answers most quickly by contacting the Administrative and Budget staff member who handles your area of concern. See the Clark Hall Divisions and Functions page for a list of Administrative and Budget staff and their responsibilities.
Accounts Payable is the central University office responsible for paying bills and reimbursing employees for work-related expenses.
Accounts Payable staff members each specialize in various purchasing areas. Often email is the most prompt way to address issues with Accounts Payable.
Some of Accounts Payable’s forms/procedures that are of most relevance to a department are:
Departmental Transfers (DTA): Used when one department wishes to pay another department. Upon completing a DTA, the department chair of the department giving the funds should sign and the form should be sent for approval to Olivia Montgomery, by campus mail at Box 870268 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Purchase Orders (PO): Used to procure products and/or services through non-catalog vendors for amounts over $5,000.00 for University departments in accordance with state law and University policy. Refer to the Purchasing website for more detailed information on purchasing regulations and policies.
Purchasing Cards (P-Card): A Visa credit card used to allow the cardholder to handle authorized purchases up to $9,999.99 per single transaction (including any freight charges) without delays or paperwork (i.e., Purchase Orders) that often accompany larger transactions. Refer to the P-Card website for more detailed information on appropriate Purchasing Card use. Chairs must determine the credit limit per P-Card within their unit and determine to whom one is issued. Some units have only one that is controlled centrally and others have multiple cards (such as the case where faculty members make frequent purchases to support their teaching or research). Closely tracking the use of this card is crucial if the chair is to develop responsible budgetary practices (i.e., despite the actual P-Card being stored centrally, the number and expiry date can easily be communicated, allowing unauthorized purchases). The e-print statement must be balanced, or “reconciled,” by your budget staff member monthly and the billed amounts and actual monthly charges must match exactly. A system such as BAS should be used to record and reconcile all transactions and track departmental commitments.
New Chairs are advised to consider having all previous P-Cards in their unit canceled and have new card[s] issued in a manner in keeping with the chair’s wishes; minimally, new chairs should do an inventory of the P-Cards in their units, their credit limits, and history of use, and then assess how the P-Cards have been used.)
Your department’s budget officer (i.e., staff member) should be well acquainted with all of these processes and items. View Accounts Payable’s “Frequently Asked Questions” for more information.
- 12-month chairs will NOT receive an administrative stipend.
- 9-month chairs will receive a $3000 administrative stipend per semester (fall, spring, and summer).
- The funding for program directors will come from the departments.
- With the dean’s approval, program directors may receive up to $2000 per semester (fall and spring).
- Program directors who receive the above stipend should NOT be given course reduction.
Alcohol (Purchasing with State Funds)
No alcohol whatsoever may be purchased or financed (i.e., reimbursement) with state funds. For this reason, all entertainment expenses that are submitted for reimbursement must be accompanied by itemized receipts on which any purchased alcohol (and that portion of the tax) are subtracted from the portion to be reimbursed.
Chairs wishing to purchase alcohol when entertaining (e.g., on-campus job interviews, guest lecturers, faculty dinners, etc.) must determine an alternative, private way to finance these expenses.
While all departments have a staff member who handles the day-to-day budgetary activities of the unit, the chair is ultimately responsible for the department’s fiscal affairs. The chair must therefore be familiar with and then sign all forms for personnel action, purchase orders, miscellaneous disbursements, monthly P-Card reconciliations, departmental transfers, and budget revisions that involve a unit’s accounts (e.g., moving funds from one account to another). It is the chair’s responsibility to ensure that all funds are spent wisely and that the department’s fiscal obligations are met each fiscal year. The chair should ensure that the departmental budget person reconciles the department’s accounts on a regular basis and should be aware of or have access at all times to fund balances in all accounts, including gift funds as well as the various commitments that the unit has already made (e.g., funds from the operating account already committed for phone and mailing costs for the coming months).
At the year-end meeting with the deans, a chair should be prepared to discuss activity in all department accounts. The Dean’s Office is available to help chairs and departmental staff with budget questions (contact the College’s Financial Affairs Office.).
The College of Arts and Sciences was among the last Colleges to institute course fees for its students. Currently, students are charged an additional $15 fee per Arts and Sciences credit hour in which they enroll; the College uses these fees to support initiatives that directly impact its students, such as helping to finance classroom multimedia systems and open computing labs. The University now also charges a separate $7 per Arts and Sciences credit hour technology fee, but these funds do not come directly to the College.
Concerning the $15 per credit hour Arts and Sciences course fee that does come directly to the College, from this the College provides departments with
- $2.50 for each credit hour the department’s tenured or tenure-track faculty taught per semester, and
- $1.25 to the department per credit hour taught by full-time or part-time instructors.
These funds are deposited into the department’s account at the start of each semester. Because of the timing of this payment, it is always based on the previous year’s enrollments, such that the upcoming Fall semester’s enrollment will be reflected in next Fall’s payment to the unit, and this Fall’s payment reflects last Fall’s enrollments.
The provost has been clear that, because these funds ought to be used to the direct benefit of students, the fees paid to departments must be used for a delimited number of expenses. The College regularly provides examples to chairs of the sort of expenses that can be paid through the use of these fees (which are paid to departments in a separate sub-code, such that it is possible to monitor the use of these fees). Chairs should consult with their divisional associate dean if they have questions concerning the use of these funds; for present purposes, suffice it to say that any department expenses that can legitimately be described as supporting students and student learning (e.g., copy costs for class handouts, student travel to a conference, hiring student workers, purchasing supplies for the classroom or labs, etc.) can benefit from these course fees.
For guidelines on using these funds for department expenses, look in eChairs Resources for “Guidelines for Faculty Start-Up Funds.”
In some cases, departments have had funds donated to the unit with specific instructions by the donor (communicated in a Memorandum of Agreement [MOA]). The funds most often make possible student departmental support funds, scholarships, or endowed chairs. Chairs are advised to obtain a copy of their endowments’ MOAs (or Resolutions) from the College Development Office (which can obtain it from the University’s Development Office if it is not already on file in the department or College), to become familiar with the gift’s conditions.
These funds are invested and managed by the University (your endowment’s value allows your unit to have a number of shares in the University’s overall investment portfolio). The funds are therefore subject to the vagaries of the national/global economy, and to minimize this. Endowment earnings are paid out on a three-year rolling average (to moderate fluctuations in the market). This means that a decline in 2009 would not be felt until three years out, (FY 2009-10’s payments are an average of the earnings already paid out for the previous three years) Prior to the stock market decline of 2009, investments produced approximately 5% interest each year.
Departments will sometimes receive contributions to already established endowments. These gifts should be forwarded to Holly Bush in the Arts and Sciences Development Office at Box 870268 to ensure timely and accurate processing by the University Office of Advancement Services, to which the College forwards all such gifts. All checks received by the department, no matter the reason, should be forwarded to the Dean’s Office. Any donation of any kind should be reported to the A&S Development Office.
Although both the College and the University issue a thank-you, direct donations to the unit afford the chair an opportunity to write an early thank-you to the donor. Donations that do not first come to the department are reported to the chair on a regular basis by the College (i.e., every three months). Thank-you letters from the chair to donors are then possible.
In early Spring (e.g., February), the College provides projections of endowment earnings for the coming year. The staff of the University’s Budget Office will also work closely with a chair to establish reasonable projections on endowment earnings.
Fiscal Year (FY)
The University’s fiscal year begins each October 1 and ends each September 30. Many of a department’s accounts (such as the operating budget) do not roll over into the new fiscal year. Funds in these accounts are zeroed out, and the unit loses these unspent funds. A chair not wishing to return funds to the College is therefore responsible to ensure that all funds are either spent or committed before the end of the fiscal year. Unspent funds in other sorts of accounts (e.g., endowment accounts, scholarship accounts, etc.) do roll over, such that an unspent surpluses can accumulate–although the College cautions against growing surpluses too large, unless a chair has discussed his or her plan with the College.
In addition to their state-funded operating budget for salaries and other operational expenses, most departments also have gift accounts. These accounts provide funding for student support, faculty activities, departmental expenses, etc. Gift accounts include both endowed and non-endowed funds. (For example, Blount payments to a department are put into the unit’s gift account.)
The chair is responsible for the disbursement of all gift funds and must sign all personnel action forms and departmental transfers involving gift funds. The College monitors the status of gift accounts closely to guarantee that the funds are being used in an effective manner and the dean discusses the status of all accounts with chairs during their annual review meeting. Chairs are asked to ensure that gift-fund earnings are spent in a timely manner and that unspent balances do not accumulate through time (i.e., roll over to the next fiscal year) without the specific approval of the dean.
All gifts that are made to the College are sent directly to the College’s Development Office, located in Smith Hall, where they are processed according to their procedures. Donations (i.e., gifts) that are made directly to a department should be sent via intracampus mail to Holly Bush, Box 870268, and should include the check and the envelope it came in.
State funds (e.g., operating budgets, gift accounts, research overhead accounts, grants, etc.) may not be used to pay for dues for a faculty or staff member to join a professional association. See Chapter 3, X, A.2 of the Faculty Handbook. Any membership or membership renewal must be approved by the A&S Dean and must be held in both the faculty member’s and the College’s or University’s name.
Although the College provides a small annual travel budget for each department (apart from the annual operating budget), because chairs control their own budgets they can decide to budget funds for faculty travel and research expenses. In addition, the divisional associate deans control small travel budgets and are responsive to requests for funding from faculty. Also, minority faculty members can obtain additional resources through Arts and Sciences to assist their career development (currently administered through direct contact with Associate Dean Roger Sidje). Other sources of funding also exist on campus, such as Capstone International, for international professional travel.
Chairs should require that their unit’s faculty members make external funding requests through the chair or, at least, to copy their chair on such requests, since obtaining these funds–if they are awarded–will require action on the part of the chair.
The College (and, if the chair agrees, the department) also supports student travel for research.
Crowdsourced funding (Kickstarter, etc.) is not acceptable at The University of Alabama. [9.27.13]
Soft Money Requests
During the Fall semester, chairs are asked to submit a request for “soft money” funding for instructional activities during the next academic year (as opposed to annually committed line items that appear in the “hard budget”). Soft money is typically requested to replace the teaching of faculty members who have retired/resigned and whose positions have not yet been refilled, for instruction in areas where unanticipated student demand exceeds faculty resources, and to support specialized courses where expertise is not available within the regular faculty.
Soft money funding comes from the College’s own budget and is provided to the College by the Office of Academic Affairs. Soft money requests are submitted by chairs to the Dean’s Office and should include an itemized listing of soft money needs including cost and a justification for each item requested. The Dean’s Office reviews these requests, prepares a College-wide soft money request, and submits it to the Office of Academic Affairs in January. Departments are typically informed of soft money allocations in March. There is no longer a specific form for soft money requests. Detail your needs in an Excel file and submit this to your divisional associate dean. [1.7.13]
Usage of Indirect Costs (IDC)
The College’s policy on the use of indirect costs (IDC) has been and will continue to be the following: The 10 percent reimbursement of IDC to the Principal Investigator (PI) may be used to support research-related professional activities. Such activities include, but are not limited to, conducting research, paying graduate research assistants, purchasing supplies or equipment, or covering the cost of travel to professional meetings. IDC funds may NOT be used for regular faculty salary during the summer months. [8.2.16]