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What can I buy for university-related business?

If you ever ask yourself “can I buy x with state funds?“, the answer will very likely be in the Spending Guidelines.

One of the unique characteristics of being a public university is the wide variety of sources of funds that we manage, each of which has its own spending characteristics.

The Spending Guidelines have been designed to help employees become knowledgeable of the rules, regulations and precedents that have been put in place to ensure wise spending decisions are made at all times. Through this knowledge, university employees will be empowered to carry out the university’s mission effectively while engaging in spending practices that are legal, fiscally responsible, and politically sound. 

This article offers an overview of allowable and non-allowable items. For further details and other useful information, please refer to the Spending Guidelines.

Identification of Fund Type

The table below breaks out project groups by type of funding received. This is helpful for determining what type of guidelines are specific to a project. 

Another helpful classification is Program Code. A list of program codes and how they are used is available on the Controller’s website. 

Type of
Funding Source
Starts With
Fund CodeClass Code
State Appropriations: Academic Affairs20
through 24
16030212: State Appropriated
215: Distance Education
216: Pass through Transfer
Facilities &
Administration Receipts
through 29
91000261: F&A – University Revenues
262: F&A – Overhead/Indirect Costs
State Appropriations: Academic Affairs30
through 34
1603023375: EdTech Fee prior to FY13
23376: Appropriated Receipts
23377: External Consortiums
23379: Premium Tuition 
Auxiliary Sales and
Sales and Service
through 39
9100011: Clearing
32: Auxiliaries
33: Discretionary
3410: Service center w/user rate
3420: Service center w/o user rate
35: Student Fees
36: Centennial Campus
37: Vet School
38: Misc Sales and Service
Education and
Technology Fees
361xxx9100039: Education & Technology Fee ETF
Agricultural Research40
through 43
1603141xx: State and Federal Appropriations
Cooperative Extension44
through 49
1603242xx: State and Federal Appropriations
Contracts & Grants50
through 59
91000501: Federal
502: State
503: Private
504: Other
599: Suspense
Foundation Funds60
through 69
9100061/6190: Unrestricted
62/6290: Temporary Restricted
63: Permanently Restricted
64: Agency funds
Gifts, Loans70
through 79
9100070: Clearing
71: Loan Funds
73/79: Gifts
through 79
9100072xx: Endowment
Capital Improvement80
through 89
4xxxx81: Capital Improvements
Debt Service80
through 89
9100082-83xx: Debt Service
84xx: Investment in Plant
University Clearing9590: Clearing
through 94

through 99
91xx: Agency Funds
92xx: Fiduciary Funds

Unallowable purchases from State Funds

Prohibited PurchaseException
Alcoholic beverages and “setups”None
Coffee, tea, drinks, candy, snacks, break refreshments, etc. for consumption by employees or guestsTravel related per diem for employees and visitors  OR Refreshments allowed under the conference and training, external and internal rules (See below)
Flowers, plants, foodWhen used in research, education, or for consumption by research animals rather than decorative or personal use.
Plants and flowers purchased by the Facilities Division as part of campus maintenance. 
Framing of pictures, art, diplomas, etc. for use in a personal office for decorative purposePurchase or framing of motivational or informational wall hangings which are functional rather than decorative in nature and are intended for departmental use rather than for one individual’s office.

Exception: Purchase of a plaque or for the printing and framing of a certificate may be expended, not to exceed $100 per employee for recognition of meritorious service based upon the Office of State Human Resources service award program as authorized in G.S. 126-4(8).
Get well cards, sympathy cards, birthday cards, Christmas or other holiday cardsNone
Gifts or flowers for an employee or non-employeeNone
Items for personal useNone
Medication and/or medical suppliesIf required by federal or state regulations or for emergency first aid
Microwave ovens, coffee pots, refrigerators or related items for personal office useEquipment or supplies utilized for educational or research purposes or for equipment purchased for all employees’ use in the outfitting of a building.
Party items or other decorative items to decorate an office for a holiday or party or general decorative use including balloons and other like itemsNone
Prohibited PurchaseException
Penalties and FinesNone
Personal clothing items which are not part of a required uniform, safety related, or program related.Exceptions must be approved in advance.
Personal / Individual membership feesSee Membership fees below
Picnic items (paper plates, cups, napkins, forks, spoons, etc) for office and/or employee useNone
Picnic tables for a departmentPurchased, constructed by the Facilities Division as part of the campus maintenance function.
Rental or purchase of water dispensers and the purchase of bottled waterIn the event that the quality of the water in a campus building is in question, the department should call the Environmental Health and Safety Office to have the water tested. The Facilities Division may be contacted to determine if additional water fountains are needed in a campus building. 

Outside of Wake County, the local water utility or health department should be contacted. A portable water dispenser can be rented or bottled water purchased from state appropriated or overhead funds only if there is a health/safety reason for the purchase.

Examples would be if a temporary condition existed where water quality in a facility was below state standards or when university personnel (for example, Facilities’ personnel or farm personnel) are working under weather or other conditions where water is not available otherwise.
Transfer to capital improvementNone, except for year-end carry forward exception. (See Appropriated Carry Forward Funds.)
Updated on June 9, 2023

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