Since Local Cultural Councils administer public dollars, they must ensure that all funds are always accounted for. Managing LCC finances is a year-round process. It is important that each LCC establishes a good working relationship with their municipality to guarantee that grantees are paid in a timely manner, money is handled in compliance with Mass Cultural Council guidelines, and all funds are tracked and documented appropriately.
All funds from Mass Cultural Council, municipal funds, donations to the LCC, and any interest earned thereon must be deposited in a revolving account kept separate and apart from all other monies and administered by the local city or town treasurer. Separate checkbooks and non-municipal accounts are not allowed.
The LCC treasurer or another member should visit the municipal treasurer or accountant regularly to establish or maintain a working relationship. LCCs are entitled to interest on their accounts and to regular account balance reports from their municipalities. Bi-annual or quarterly visits are recommended. During each visit, review reimbursement and/or direct grant procedures and periodic accounting reports to verify balance and interest earned and any other important information that will help the LCC conduct its business.
Keep bills and receipts of all administrative expenses to submit to the municipal treasurer when requesting reimbursement for expenses incurred by LCC members. Municipalities determine the process for administrative reimbursement.
It is important for the treasurer to keep a copy of all approval letters to keep track of grantee deadlines for reimbursement and direct grants. Grant recipients have one year from the date on their approval notification to request reimbursement or a direct grant.
Always keep a record of which payments have been processed and when the paperwork was submitted to the town. See the Financial Best Practices section below for good strategies for tracking payments.
Encumbered funds are state funds that have been promised to a grantee, but which have not yet been reimbursed or paid as a direct grant. Grant recipients have one year after notification of an award to request reimbursement or payment. Grantees’ funds are considered encumbered until the end of that year. Keep track of which grantees have requested reimbursement or direct grant throughout the year.
An LCC may approve a reasonable extension at its own discretion. If a grantee does not request reimbursement, direct grant, or an extension by the end of the one-year period, then the money becomes unencumbered. Read more about extensions and modifications.
Unencumbered funds are unspent state funds from prior fiscal years. Unencumbered funds accrue for various reasons, typically because previously approved projects were completed for less than the amount awarded, were not completed at all, or the grantee simply did not request reimbursement. Administrative funds left over from previous years should also be considered unencumbered money. Any unencumbered money must be regranted in the next funding cycle. The LCC must use Mass Cultural Council’s grant cycle process and timeline for redistributing these funds
LCCs may spend up to five percent of their state allocation each funding cycle for administrative expenses. Any locally-raised money or interest earned from state funds may be used for administrative expenses without being subject to a percentage limit. LCCs may not accumulate unspent administrative funds on the local level from year to year. Any unspent administrative funds from a prior grant cycle should be treated as unencumbered money and should be regranted during the following grant cycle.
LCC members cannot receive compensation but can receive reimbursement for expenses. Together the LCC and the municipality should determine specific policies and procedures for reimbursing members for expenses. While LCCs may use administrative funds to purchase refreshments for public events, such as grantee receptions, LCCs cannot use administrative funds to purchase food for standard LCC meetings, such as grant cycle voting meetings.
Examples of administrative expenses can include:
- Membership fees to cultural associations
- Grantee receptions
- Clerical or staffing assistance
- Gas/tolls/parking costs to attend Mass Cultural Council events
- Sign language interpreters
- Web site creation/maintenance
- Subscription to email services
- Subscription to online survey providers
- Refreshments for public LCC events
Locally-Raised Money and Interest
Locally-raised funds and any interest earned from state funds can be distributed at the discretion of the LCC at any time during the year, if the funds go to support the arts, humanities, or sciences. Mass Cultural Council also recommends that locally-raised funds distributed or spent by the LCC meet the other substantive requirements set forth in the state and local eligibility criteria; however, unlike state funds, prior Mass Cultural Council approval for expenditure of local funds is not required.
Because LCCs are considered government agencies, all monies, including those raised locally, must be deposited in and maintained in the municipal account designated for the LCC. Donated or earned monies should be tracked by the council so the LCC knows the ongoing total of state and locally-raised funds.
For more detailed information on managing locally-raised funds, review the LCC Program Guidelines.
Because LCCs are responsible for granting out state funds, it is extremely important that LCC funds are tracked and managed correctly. Every year, Mass Cultural Council requires that each municipality and LCC submit a financial report to fulfill the annual reporting requirement stated in M.G.L. Chapter 10 Section 58. This report must be completed annually before the LCC’s grant cycle voting meeting.
Completion ensures that all LCCs have a clear and current accounting from their municipality before any local grant decisions are made. It also ensures that unencumbered balances from previous years are used in each community. Mass Cultural Council engages the services of an accountant with expertise in municipal finances to make periodic site visits to LCCs. The goal of these site visits is to provide practical, on-the-ground support and technical assistance when and where it is needed.
Exact dates are listed in the Grant Cycle Timeline.
Mass Cultural Council notifies LCCs of their allocation amount. Also, Mass Cultural Council forwards the LCC Account Form to the municipal fiscal officer (this may be the city/town treasurer, auditor, or accountant) via email. The municipal fiscal officer will report on the prior fiscal year of the LCC’s account activity (from July 1 of the previous year through June 30 of the current year).
LCC meets with municipal fiscal officer to receive updated account activity and sign off on the LCC account in order to update the financial reporting section of the LCC Annual Report. If there is a discrepancy in the accounting, the LCC and municipal fiscal officer will have the opportunity to review and revise the account.
LCC should meet with their municipal fiscal officer by September 30 each year. LCCs may find the Grant Tracking Spreadsheet, Ledger Template, and Municipal Meeting Prep Sheet useful as they prepare their financial records in advance of the meeting. LCCs will need to:
- Determine what grant reimbursement requests are outstanding (encumbered funds), and which grants did not or will not submit reimbursement requests (unencumbered funds).
- Determine total expenditures from the past fiscal year.
- Determine the amount of locally raised funds and/or interest remaining in the LCC account (if applicable).
- Determine what the account balance should have been at the end of the fiscal year (June 30).
LCC keeps the signed LCC Account Form for use in the Financial Report to Mass Cultural Council and for their records.
LCC completes the Financial Report in the online grants management system by the October deadline. This includes two tabs:
- LCC Account Form – LCC inputs information from the completed form they received from their municipal fiscal officer.
- Calculate Amount Available for Granting – LCC calculates the total amount available to grant out in advance of their voting meeting. The Voting Meeting Calculation Sheet can be a helpful resource to do this. The LCC must account for any changes since receiving the LCC Account Form as well as any funds that are still being held for grantees (encumbered funds).
The council will also need to make decisions regarding administrative funds and any locally raised money or interest to be included in the grant cycle. They must also decide whether they plan to set aside up to 20% of their allocation for a Council Program.
November – January
- LCC holds grant cycle voting meetings to review and decide on the applications their council has received.
- LCC reports their grant decisions to Mass Cultural Council by submitting their completed Annual Report by the mid-January statewide reporting deadline.
Please keep in mind the amount available for granting must equal the total amount of grants awarded during the voting meeting.
The following resources are available to help LCCs complete the financial reporting process and manage their funds successfully throughout the year.
- Ledger Template: to track income and expenditures throughout the year.
- Grant Tracking Worksheet: to track encumbered and unencumbered funds.
- Municipal Meeting Prep Sheet: to prepare financial information for the LCC meeting with the municipal fiscal officer.
- Voting Meeting Calculation Sheet: to determine the total amount available to grant during grant cycle voting meeting.
Financial Best Practices
Every LCC and municipality will potentially face a unique set of challenges in managing their LCC funds.
LCCs that practice good financial management tend to use the following practices:
- Receive regular reports about account activity from their municipality.
- Establish clear processes with the municipality for reimbursements, tracking and spending different types of funds.
- Track all account expenditures and revenue throughout the year.
- Track all approved grants, reimbursement requests, and unencumbered funds.
Receiving Regular Reports on Account Activity
Local Cultural Councils are entitled to regular financial reports from their municipality. Annually, municipalities will provide the council with the LCC Account Form as part of the financial reporting process. In addition, Mass Cultural Council encourages municipalities to provide account statements to LCCs monthly, quarterly, or as needed. If an LCC would like more regular reports on their account activity, they should schedule a meeting with their municipal fiscal officer to discuss the content and frequency of the reports. Once a schedule is in place, the municipal fiscal officer can mail or email the reports directly to the LCC’s treasurer.
Establishing Clear Financial Processes
To avoid delays and frustration, it is important for LCCs to work with their municipality to establish clear processes for paying grantees, depositing, and spending locally-raised funds, and reimbursing LCC members for administrative expenses. Local funds may be spent as the LCC directs but may be accessed only by the process used by the municipal treasurer and/or accountant’s office for the expenditure of public funds.
The LCC’s treasurer or another member can meet with the municipal fiscal officer to decide on processes that work best for both the municipality and the LCC. It may be helpful to provide them a copy of the Municipal Guide to Local Cultural Councils (PDF) in advance of the meeting so they can learn about the program and their role in it. At the meeting, the municipal fiscal officer should help the LCC understand the city or town’s process and time frame for financial disbursements. Other issues to discuss may include:
- When and how often the municipality can cut checks.
- When and how often the LCC should submit completed reimbursement forms.
- How to track and spend administrative funds.
- If the LCC has locally-raised money or plans to raise funds, discuss what the LCC plans to use them for if they are to be spent on a project, when and how will LCC members be reimbursed for project expenses.
Tracking Revenues and Expenditures
An LCC’s revenues and expenditures should be tracked by both the municipal fiscal officer and the LCC. The LCC should review any municipal accounting reports to compare revenue and expenditure records, verify account balance and interest earned, and any other important information that will help all parties carry out financial activities effectively.
If an LCC raises local funds or wishes to use interest earned towards a council program, it is especially important for the LCC and the municipality to establish a way to track different kinds of funds within the LCC’s account. The LCC Program statute (M.G.L. c.10, s.58) states that municipalities shall establish “a revolving account which shall be kept separate and apart from all other monies” for the LCC “in which shall be deposited all receipts from the state arts lottery fund…and any other receipts or donations to the local or regional cultural council authorized by law” and that “all such funds, including interest earned thereon, may be expended at the direction of the local or regional cultural council, without further appropriation.”
Municipal treasurers and accountants should follow their normal procedures for setting up and tracking revolving fund activity. They are encouraged to call Mass Cultural Council or their Department of Revenue (DOR) Bureau of Accounts field representative if they have questions. According to DOR, the statute directs that all revenue be credited to the LCC account, including gifts and interest, which would otherwise be segregated. Expenditures from the LCC revolving account must be approved through the local warrant process.
Ultimately, a system must be in place that allows the municipal treasurers, accountants and the LCC to:
- Track the revolving account’s balance and activity.
- Allocate interest.
- Track the receipt and expenditure of different types of LCC funds separately (state funds, locally-raised funds, and interest).
This does not mean that the treasurer is obligated to establish an entirely separate bank account, but they are responsible for tracking the LCC’s revolving account balance and activity separately from other funds. To satisfy Mass Cultural Council reporting requirements, we encourage the LCC to meet with their municipal fiscal officer to determine how they can work together to best accomplish these recordkeeping goals.
One of the best strategies for managing LCC funds correctly is for the LCC to keep an ongoing ledger of all incoming revenue and outgoing expenditures throughout the year. Having a good system in place ensures that the LCC can easily monitor their account activity.
Many LCCs find that Microsoft Excel is a great tool for tracking funds. If you have a good template set up, inputting and calculating information can be streamlined and user-friendly. In addition, Excel spreadsheets can easily be sent electronically to the town treasurer, other LCC members, or even to the LCC’s Mass Cultural Council staff contact if you have questions.
If your LCC distributes all available funds (state, local, and interest) through the state grant cycle, you can use a basic ledger to track all revenue and expenditures throughout the year:
- View a Sample Ledger.
- Download the Ledger Template to start your own. This template is already set up to do basic revenue/expenditure calculations for you.
If your LCC uses locally-raised funds and interest for LCC activities outside of the state grant cycle, you might consider tracking state and local funds through separate ledgers or one ledger that tracks the funds separately:
- View a Sample Ledger – Separate Funds
- Download the Separate Funds Ledger Template to start your own. This template is already set up to do revenue/expenditure calculations for you.
Tracking Grants, Reimbursements, and Unencumbered Funds
It is primarily the LCC’s responsibility to keep track of approved grants, the amount awarded, the amount reimbursed, and the amount that becomes unencumbered if a project does not request payment or does not use the full grant award. There is no way for a municipal fiscal officer to know if funds have become unencumbered unless the LCC keeps them informed. To do this, the LCC should send them a list of their approved grants each year, and then either update the municipal fiscal officer regularly, or at least once a year at the required meeting each September.
LCCs should keep track of the following information:
- The date the funds will become unencumbered (one year from the date on the approval letter)
- The original grant amount vs. the amount requested for reimbursement.
- Projects that are canceled.
- Projects that receive extensions.
To track this information the LCC can use an Excel spreadsheet.
- View a Sample Grant Tracking Spreadsheet
- Download the Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Template to get started on your own. This template is already formatted to help you track encumbered and unencumbered funds year-round.