Section 31. No department financed by municipal revenue, or in whole or in part by taxation, of any city or town, except Boston, shall incur a liability in excess of the appropriation made for the use of such department, each item recommended by the mayor and voted by the council in cities, and each item voted by the town meeting in towns, being considered as a separate appropriation, except in cases of major disaster, including, but not limited to, flood, drought, fire, hurricane, earthquake, storm or other catastrophe, whether natural or otherwise, which poses an immediate threat to the health or safety of persons or property, and then only by a vote in a city of two-thirds of the members of the city council, and in a town by a majority vote of all the selectmen. Payments of liabilities incurred under authority of this section may be made, with the written approval of the director, from any available funds in the treasury, and the amounts of such liabilities incurred shall be reported by the auditor or accountant or other officer having similar duties, or by the treasurer if there be no such officer, to the assessors who shall include the amounts so reported in the aggregate appropriations assessed in the determination of the next subsequent annual tax rate, unless the city or town has appropriated amounts specified to be for such liabilities; provided, that, if proceedings are brought in accordance with provisions of section fifty-three of chapter forty, no payments shall be made and no amounts shall be certified to the assessors until the termination of such proceedings. Payments of final judgments and awards or orders of payment approved by the industrial accident board rendered after the fixing of the tax rate for the current fiscal year may, with the approval of the director of accounts if the amount of the judgment or award is over ten thousand dollars, be made from any available funds in the treasury, and the payments so made shall be reported by the auditor or accountant or other officer having similar duties, or by the treasurer if there be no such officer, to the assessors, who shall include the amount so reported in the aggregate appropriations assessed in the determination of the next subsequent annual tax rate, unless the city or town has otherwise made provision therefor.
The provisions of this section, so far as apt, shall apply to districts, and the prudential committee, if any, otherwise the commissioners, shall act in place of the members of the city council or selectmen.