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The 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 31: Liabilities in excess of appropriations forbidden; exceptions

[ Section impacted by 2020, 53, Sec. 7 effective April 3, 2020 relating to the adoption of a deficit amortization schedule by a city, town or district in order to address disruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.]

[ First paragraph effective until December 13, 2021. For text effective December 13, 2021, see below.]

  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 upon a declaration by the governor of a state of emergency with respect to the disaster or 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. If the declared emergency prevents the adoption of an annual budget by a town or district by the June 30 preceding the start of the fiscal year, the board of selectmen, town council or district commissioners shall notify the director and the director may approve expenditures, from any appropriate fund or account, of an amount sufficient for the operations of the town or district during the month of July not less than 1/12 of the total budget approved by the town or district in the most recent fiscal year pursuant to a plan approved by the board of selectmen, town council or district commissioners and such authority shall continue for each successive month while the emergency continues to prevent the adoption of a budget. The director may promulgate and revise rules or regulations regarding the approval of emergency expenditures described in this section and accounting with regard to such expenditures. Payments of final judgments, awards or payments ordered or approved by a state or federal court or adjudicatory agency may, upon certification by the city solicitor or town council that no appeal can or will be taken and as required by municipal charter, ordinance or by-law, 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.

[ First paragraph as amended by 2021, 102, Secs. 22 to 25 effective December 13, 2021. For text effective until December 13, 2021, see above.]

  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 upon a declaration by the governor of a state of emergency with respect to the disaster or 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 for such an emergency 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. If the declared emergency prevents the adoption of an annual budget by a town or district by the June 30 preceding the start of the fiscal year, the board of selectmen, town council or district commissioners shall notify the director and the director may approve expenditures, from any appropriate fund or account, of an amount sufficient for the operations of the town or district during the month of July not less than 1/12 of the total budget approved by the town or district in the most recent fiscal year pursuant to a plan approved by the board of selectmen, town council or district commissioners and such authority shall continue for each successive month while the emergency continues to prevent the adoption of a budget. The director may promulgate and revise rules or regulations regarding the approval of emergency expenditures described in this section and accounting with regard to such expenditures. Payments of judgments, which shall mean final awards or payments ordered or approved by a state or federal court or adjudicatory agency may, upon certification by the city solicitor or town counsel that no appeal can or will be taken and as required by municipal charter, ordinance or by-law, 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 made provision therefor by borrowing under section 7 or otherwise.

  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, and the district counsel in place of the city solicitor or town counsel.