Use of Public Funds

Use of Public Funds for Various Expenditures

A number of questions have been raised on the appropriate use of public funds for various expenditures. This memo is to clarify University policy and will be used by the University Purchasing Office as it audits purchase orders and requests for purchasing.

It is important to establish what is meant by public funds. Public funds are those dollars that are spent from normal University departmental accounts. These dollars are products of public taxes, student fees and University revenues and as a result must be used with great care. Funds from grants or contracts with the Federal or State Government are considered Public Funds.

As a general rule, public funds may be used for necessary costs involved in carrying out the University's programs. The following will clarify types of expenditures that may be of particular concern. For additional guidelines, please refer to Expenditure of Public Funds.

Holiday Receptions - Public funds may be used for all costs (other than the cost of alcoholic beverages) involved in the President's official holiday receptions. Public funds may not be used to pay for other Faculty and Staff parties held at either on or off-campus sites.


Food - Food may be purchased to carry out an official University function. Normally, meals for University employees are their own personal responsibility. However, in certain limited circumstances, meals may be provided for University staff. Generally, food costs may be covered for official meetings involving outside guests only.  This does not include vendor demonstrations.  The connection with University business must be very carefully drawn on the voucher, and the expenditure must have prior approval of the Dean in the academic areas and in the non-academic areas by a Vice President.

There are limited items per the BOG policy for on-campus luncheon meetings not involving outside guests to be covered.  The lunch expense would need written approval of the appropriate Vice President.  Luncheon meetings in an off-campus restaurant involving only University employees are not reimbursable. 

Employees who are expected to work closely with students may be reimbursed for their expenses involved in attending formal university function for a student dinner. Also, employees who as a part of their official duties must attend community lunches or dinners may be reimbursed for the costs of attending. However, the expense for a spouse or personal guest is not a reimbursable expense.

When purchasing food for an on-campus special event or meeting, please contact the Dining and Conference Services Office.  Outside vendors are prohibited without the Dining and Conference Service Office's permission. 

Donated funds - Donated funds must be used in accordance with the expressed wishes of the donor. If the use is not designated, unrestricted donated funds may be used for any purpose that advances University program. However, donated funds may not be used for political purposes.

It must be emphasized that only those expenses that are absolutely necessary for the public function may be reimbursed.

Prohibited Expenditures

Flowers or Seasonal Decorations - Normally flowers or seasonal decorations may not be purchased from public funds. There are some exceptions, for example, purchase of flowers for the decoration of the stage at commencement or for other major public functions. However, flower arrangements, holiday cards, expensive desk accessories, or to fund or acknowledge personal celebrations of the faculty or staff (sickness, birthdays, deaths, retirement functions and/or gifts, etc.) or other similar items is prohibited. Such items are considered personal items.

Coffee - Coffee itself, coffee makers and coffee services are generally personal expenses and not chargeable to public funds. However, coffee may be purchased from public funds for large events or large meetings involving either guests from outside the campus or a cross section of the campus community.

Water - Bottled water is considered a personal expense and not chargeable to public funds.

Microwave ovens and refrigerators - The University does not provide these appliances for normal office settings. Depending on the circumstance, a refrigerator or microwave oven may be purchased for a public lunch area in a large building. A public lunch area is an area open to all employees.

Alcoholic beverages - Under no circumstances may alcoholic beverages be purchased with public funds.

Any questions concerning this policy should be directed to the Purchasing Director at extension 7884.