Managing the departmental budget

Once you've been appointed chair, you will be in charge of the departmental budget. Every department has at least one budget (the basic departmental budget) and may have more (e.g., endowed funds).  At the beginning of each academic year, a member of the Office of Academic Affairs will distribute information about the budget, including account numbers over which you have purview.

Some chairs, at the beginning of the year, make copies of the budget for everyone in the department. This way everyone knows how much there is available. If you have a new person in the department, it's a good time to explain matters related to the budget, for example: buying office supplies through the bookstore in order to save money, etc. You might also distribute the end results of the previous year's budget if you would like others in the department to see how the year finished up.

Responsibility for some accounts may be shared in the department. For example, a line devoted to campus visitors may be delegated to another member of the department who coordinates a lecture series. However, as the person who sees the big picture, you will need to be generally aware of expenditures and be available if department members need assistance.

A miscellany of things to know about the budget:

  • It is important that the department stay within its annual budget .
  • Departmental funds unspent in one fiscal year do not rollover into the next.
  • Check the budget every month or two to see how you're doing.
  • The student salary line may not be drawn on during the summer. If you need student help during the summer, consult with the Dean, or consider applying for student faculty/research money through the Office of Academic Affairs.
  • If you find yourself consistently overspending in a particular category, talk to the Dean about reallocation within the budget, or possibly increasing the amount in that category.
  • The fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.
  • Mistakes happen. If you see a line that looks odd (e.g., a large amount spent where you think it unlikely), go into the transactions to see where the money was spent. It is not uncommon for a charge to be debited to the wrong account number. If you have any question at all about this, ask the Assistant Dean or Business Services for help. If needed, Business Services can trace the transaction back to the original paperwork.

Money transactions

As chair, you have signatory power for all the accounts associated with the department. When spending money internally, on campus, all you have to do is give the appropriate account number and sign (or the e-mail equivalent)-e.g., for charging at the bookstore, paying for copies at the service center, or ordering catering from Dining Services. You will often be asked to sign off on department members' requests for advances or reimbursements with respect to funds outside the college, and you will need to obtain another department member's and/or the Dean's signature on your requests.
Other transactions that might occur: purchasing office supplies; arranging honoraria and other expenses for visitors; making payment for visitors' travel arrangements; transferring funds from one department to another (to pay, for example, for the use of Kimmel Theatre); obtaining a travel advance or reimbursement for travel.

Purchasing and other transactional procedures are in flux (2009-10), due to the shift in administrative software. Questions related to the budget should be addressed to Business Services. You should also consult the college's "Travel and Entertainment Expense Reimbursement Policy," available in the Cornell College Staff Handbook on the Human Resources website.