The general best practice for a core facility is to ensure that:
i) The costs of providing a service are allowable, allocable, consistently applied and reasonable; ii) The rates established to recover these costs are documented and systematically evaluated against actual cost and revised on a regular basis to reflect actual costs; iii) These rates are charged to all users on a consistent basis, regardless of funding source(s) and employing a principle of “one service, one rate”.
a. Can a core facility purposefully accumulate profit?
No. Any operating surplus must be applied overall to reduce the rates charged to all users. It is not appropriate to “bank” funds for expenses that may be incurred in future years. In general, core facilities are expected to operate in a revenue neutral manner, recovering only their cost of providing service.
b. My core provides a project level service (includes project-specific method development requirements) that may take months to complete, and may be subject to change in scope or cost as the project moves forward. How can I develop an acceptable system of custom charges?
It is understandable that at a project-level, there may be services for which it is difficult to determine a standard rate to charge per project. However, the core may establish definable billable units of service or set up accounts to accumulate costs that can be accumulated into a specific project cost. Each billable unit is subject to the federal cost principles and should consist of a definable service and appropriately identified and allocated costs. By documenting each billable unit as part of regular rate review/development and consistently using these units and other allowable costs to build a custom project-level service, the core will be in a position to support specific charges to projects benefiting from the service.
c. How often do cores bill for usage?
Billing should occur at regular intervals to assure timely and accurate accounting and cost recovery. The ZMF generally bills on a quarterly basis, but other cycles can be implemented as appropriate.