An official website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Learn to Read a Financial Statement

Your board may be responsible for approving budgets, capital projects and other expenditures. If that is the case, your public board ensures that a public organization utilizes its finite public resources wisely and complies with the laws that govern the use of those resources.

You do not need to be an accounting expert, but understanding financial statements is essential to ensuring that your organization is using its public resources appropriately.

If accounting is not your area of expertise, consider asking a professional from within the organization to give the board a tutorial on reading financial statements.

You are the steward of public resources as a public board member.

Be sure to not only look at the figures in the financial statement, but also be sure to review the accounting firm’s notes regarding litigation and other matters that may affect the financial soundness of the organization.

Also, when financial material is presented at a board meeting, ask questions to clarify any unclear information. Chances are high that if you are uncertain about the information, other board members are, too.

Understand the Public Bidding Laws that Apply to your Organization

In Massachusetts, many public organizations must follow particular laws and procedures before undertaking construction projects, buying supplies, services and real property, or disposing of surplus supplies and property.

The Legislature designed these laws to ensure that all qualified vendors have a fair and equal opportunity to compete for public contracts and that taxpayer money is spent wisely. To the extent you can, educate yourself or obtain training on these laws. Additional resources to help you understand these laws are available at the end of this guide.

The OIG provides several resources, including procurement charts and manuals, to help you understand public bidding and construction laws.

Questions to ask:

  • What laws must the public organization follow related to purchasing or disposing of goods, services and real property?
  • What laws must the public organization follow in connection with construction projects?
  • What are the public organization's written procurement policies?
  • What audit procedures are in place to ensure that the organization is complying with state law and its internal procedures?

Monitor Your Organization's Expenses

At the state level, the Massachusetts Comptroller maintains CTHRU, a comprehensive electronic database of state expenditures, including state salaries and payments made to vendors by state agencies. Use this database to learn more about your agency’s expenditures or to compare your organization’s expenses to other public organizations.

If you are a member of a local board that serves a local public organization, inquire about whether there is an electronic resource similar to CTHRU, so that you may have more information at your fingertips about the budget, salaries and spending of the organization.

Armed with this information, you will be able to make meaningful determinations about financial matters that come before your board.

Additional Resources

Watch Our Video Overview of Chapter 30B

Feedback