Recharge Centers Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a Recharge Service Facility?

A recharge service facility is a self-supporting operating unit within the University that:

  1. exists principally to provide research related goods or services to University faculty, staff, or students at no more than the cost of providing the goods or services (break-even);
  2. bills sponsored programs for such goods or services;
  3. has operating costs that are funded by charges to the customers receiving the goods or services; and
  4. has revenues between $10,000 and $1 million annually

All Recharge Service Facilities fall within the purview of the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) and are covered by FIU Recharge service Operating Procedures.

2. Is there a minimum dollar threshold before a department can set up recharge center, e.g. they must have charges totaling $10,000 or more before recharge center the recharge center can be established?

A recharge center should have approximately $10,000 or more in activity billed to sponsored projects (internal customers). If this threshold is not met, the request to establish a recharge center will be denied. If requested, a proposed recharge center with less than $10,000.00 in sponsored project billing will be reviewed by the Associate Vice President for Research Administration.

3. Who is eligible to be charged the Service Center’s internal rate?

Internal users are those whose source of funds is within the FIU accounting system and where the transfer of funds is done through Smart Internal Billing. Sponsored projects, University activity departments, students within the instructional function and academic centers and institutes are internal users.

4. A project was quoted based upon approved rates in FY 2016-17, and it will continue through FY 2017-2018. We have newly approved rates in FY 2017-2018. Which rates should we use to invoice for the service completed in FY 2018?

The initial quote/agreement approved rates should be honored and charged, unless the quote/agreement contained a disclaimer that allows the center to use the new approved rate.

5. Can the Recharge Center purchase capital equipment?

At FIU, capital equipment is defined as an item with a purchase price over $5,000 and a useful life of at least one year. The actual cost of equipment used in the facility is not an allowable cost for the rate. Capital equipment cannot be purchased from the facility’s operating funds.

6. How can the recharge Center replace equipment if it doesn’t have sufficient funds available?

Acceptable methods of purchasing equipment for a recharge center facility include the following:

  1. costs for the use of equipment in the recharge service facility are recovered through a depreciation (straight-line method) allocation in the rate, provided the equipment is not already included in the FIU indirect cost rate;
  2. incremental external revenue recorded in the recharge service facility recovery ID;
  3. institutional or other funding, e.g. F&A returns; and/or
  4. shared equipment of grants or other grant programs designed to establish or support shared resources. Note: the cost of equipment supported on these programs cannot be recovered as depreciation on rates applied for the facility.

7. What equipment can the Service Center depreciate?

Equipment that is not already included in the FIU indirect cost rate can be included. Equipment purchased with federal funds can be included in the rate tool but it only affects the external rate calculations.

8. What would happen with my auxiliary ID when a recharge center ID is set up?

The Office of Auxiliary and Enterprise Development provides oversight of auxiliary operations. For questions about auxiliary guidelines and process, please contact the Office of Auxiliary and Enterprise Development at (305) 348-2682.

9a. Once the recharge center has been approved and the corresponding activity number created, do we have to create new smart bill items for the recharge center activity number?

Once a recharge center, its corresponding activity number, and its rates are approved and created, new smart billing items matching the services established in the rate development tool must be created on Panthersoft Financials – Smart Solutions. Please request access to create smart billing items for the new recharge activity number provided by ORED. Access Request Form is located at http://panthersoft.fiu.edu/accessreq/index.cfm.

9b. If my recharge center rates have recently been revised, do I need to create all new smart bill items on Panthersoft Financials?

Recharge center rates must be renewed every two years to remain in compliance. Once a center’s rates have been approved and renewed, center’s do not need to create all new smart bill items on Panthersoft Financials if the same services are being rendered; however, the items will need to be edited in the system to reflect the most currently approved rates. Please follow the steps below to edit your existing smart billing items on Panthersoft Financials.

  1. Log-in to financials.fiu.edu Click: Smart Solutions -> Smart Documents ->Smart Internal Billing -> Define Items.
  2. In “Activity Number” field, type in your recharge  center activity number. Click search.
  3. Select the item that needs to be updated.
  4. In the *Eff Date field, ensure that the effective date of the recharge center item price is on 6/30/2017, you will need to adjust the effective date to reflect the 07/01/2017 date.
  5. In the Item Details box, click the “+” that appears next to the Eff Date field.
  6. Ensure that the “Long Descr” and “Unit of Measure (UOM)” are correct as per the approved rate tool.
  7. Adjust the “Price” field to reflect newly renewed rates.

10. What are unallowable costs?

The federal guidelines require consistent costing practices with the University’s federal funds. Those costs that are not allowable on a sponsored project are also not allowable in the service center facility and may not be charged to a federally sponsored project. Examples of these unallowable costs include costs for contingency provisions or other reserves, costs relating to other functions of the school or department that are unrelated to the facility’s operations, entertainment, bad debts, alcoholic beverages, and public relations. Federal regulations do not permit startup costs incurred to establish a new service center facility to be included in the rate.

11. Do current approvers for credit card, expenses, PO for parts and consumables, etc., continue to be the same for the recharge center?

The P-card approver is assigned to the holder of the P-card and not the activity number. Expense mangers are driven by the organizational department; for each organizational department, two expenses approvers are assigned. Current approvers would remain the same for the new service center if the auxiliary that the facility is currently using.

12. Is travel allowable?

Travel expenses are allowable if travel is for training purposes and if it is related to the services offered. Travel to present research papers is not permitted.

13. What amount of a fund balance may Service Centers carry from year to year?

Service Centers are allowed to recover operating expenses, but not to make a profit. Facilities that have accumulated surplus funds through billings to internal users may not transfer these funds out of the facilities’ operating account. If there is a surplus, lower rates should be proposed for approval so that the University community will realize a reduction in expenses.

14.What information should be included on our invoices? How frequently can we bill our customers?

Customers should be invoiced on a timely basis, as grants close and budgets run low at year-end. The facility is responsible for internal and external billings and receivables. Facilities must provide all customers, whether internal (i.e., a University unit or department) or external, with a detailed billing, which can be either electronically or on paper, which  should identify:

  • The nature of the services rendered (e.g., testing);
  • The goods provided;
  • The number of units (e.g., pounds, hours, # of items);
  • The amount charged per unit of good or service;
  • Total charges by department or sponsored project being charged; and
  • Name of person authorizing the service or good (from the Service Authorization Request or Usage Log)

15. What is a departmental subsidy?

A subsidy is additional funding provided by sources other than the recovery of costs from users.

16. We’ve been asked to provide a service but we don’t have a rate for this work. What should we do?

Contact ORED and complete an updated rate development tool that includes the new proposed rate. Upon approval by ORED, the new service and rate can be used.

17. Do Recharge Service Facilities report Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT)?

A Service Center Facility may need to report Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) if they have provided services that are determined to be UBIT-related activities. Annually, the Office of the Controller’s Tax Services sends out a questionnaire to determine if any activity needs to be reported to the IRS. The Service Center Facility is responsible for reviewing the criteria to determine if an activity is subject to unrelated business income tax. The questionnaires will be submitted centrally by the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) to Controller’s. Responses are to be sent to recharge@fiu.edu or directly to the Office of Budget and Cost Analysis in the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED). To learn more about UBIT visit http://finance.fiu.edu/controller/QL_Unrel.html

18. Are food purchases an allowable cost in the recharge center budget?

Food purchases are unallowable on recharge service facilities’ operating budgets unless the following exceptions apply:

  • Food being purchased must be essential to the operations of the facility.  If this is the case, it should be clearly stated in your rate proposal.
  • Meals or refreshments purchases for meetings or conferences if technical information pertaining to the facility’s operations is disseminated.  In such cases an agenda and other documentation must be kept on file to prove the content of the meeting/conference.

19. Do recharge centers accept payments with credit cards?

Yes, Service Centers can begin accepting credit card payments from external customers by submitting a credit card payment request form. Any recharge center interested can look information available at http://finance.fiu.edu/controller/QL_Merchant_Solutions.html.