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January 9, 2008

Last September, the board of MassDevelopment voted to approve 62 Cultural Facilities Fund grants totaling $16.7 million for the original 201 applicants. The grants were supported by appropriations of $13 million from the economic stimulus bill that was passed in July 2006 and $5.0 million from the FY08 state budget that was approved in July 2007. MassDevelopment co-administers the fund with the Mass Cultural Council.

The awards capped a thorough review process that began last spring, when Mass Cultural Council convened a series of four expert panels to review the 201 applications and $80 million in total requests. The panels reviewed each application based on eligibility requirements and criteria defined in the Cultural Facilities Fund statute. The panels also rated each application numerically according to the weighted review criteria published in the Cultural Facilities Fund guidelines. The Cultural Facilities Fund Advisory Committee met three times last summer to consider the review process and award assignment system for the first round of grants. On August 15, the Committee voted to approve $16.7 million of grant recommendations to 62 projects. These grants were approved by the board of MassDevelopment on September 11, 2007.

On October 19, 2007, the Massachusetts Legislature approved a supplemental appropriation of $7 million for the Fund. A subsequent amendment to that appropriation, which passed both the House and Senate on Dec. 28, 2007 dedicates $5.5 million of that $7 million to cultural organizations with operating budgets under $5 million. This amendment was signed by the Governor this week.

From conversations with various leaders of the State Senate and House of Representatives, it is clear to the Council that the Legislature intends for this supplemental appropriation to be used to extend grants to applications that were not funded in the first round. To that end, the Mass Cultural Council plans to call a meeting of the Advisory Committee in late January to decide on a process for the original pool of applicants. The Advisory Committee's new recommendations would then go to the Board of MassDevelopment for approval at its February 14, 2008 meeting.

Meanwhile, the Governor and the Legislature are also crafting their respective budgets for Fiscal Year 2009, which begins July 1, 2008. The Mass Cultural Council is working in coalition with MAASH and the Boston Foundation asking them to include a new appropriation for the Cultural Facilities Fund of $13 million, to match that for the first year. The Mass Cultural Council expects to send out new guidelines and a review process in July, assuming a new appropriation for the Fund is included in the state budget for FY09.

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