Emergency Expenditures, Chapter 44, Section 31

Provisions for Emergency Expenditures under Chapter 44, Section 31.

Emergency Expenditures

Cities, towns and improvement districts may deficit spend to address emergency needs due to major disasters under G.L. c. 44, § 31. This option provides immediate spending authority until other financing sources, such as emergency borrowing or appropriations from available funds, can be put in place to cover the spending. An “emergency” under  is “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.”

Use of this option requires (1) state of emergency declared by the governor that applies to the event in the municipality or (2) a local emergency to health and safety declared by majority vote of the selectboard or prudential committee, or two-thirds vote of the city or town council.

In addition, the city, town or district must request approval from the Director of Accounts to pay the liabilities it incurs for the emergency purposes without appropriation. These expenditures may include employee overtime, debris removal, contractual assistance and emergency repairs to public buildings and infrastructure. The selectboard/selectboard chair, prudential committee or mayor should notify the Director by submitting a request to deficit spend for the emergency in Gateway. See Bulletin 2021-8 for detailed instructions. On the form, please include a description of the emergency and date of the applicable declaration, as well as the amount of the emergency spending permission requested. This form must be signed and submitted by the Chief Executive Officer of the city, town or district.  Bureau of Accounts field representatives will work with local officials to expedite this approval process.

These payments must be reported to the assessors for inclusion in the next subsequent annual tax rate unless otherwise provided for by appropriation or transfer, or by borrowing under G.L. c. 44 § 8(9) and/or G.L. c. 44 § 8(9A).

Any questions about this option should be directed to your community’s Bureau of Accounts field representative.

See also the Municipal Emergency Timeline diagram. (PDF)


Under the provisions of G.L. c. 44 § 31, 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 (cash flow) in the treasury and the payment must be reported to the assessors for inclusion in the next subsequent annual tax rate unless otherwise provided for. Approval of the Director of Accounts is not required. Cities and towns may borrow for the payment of final judgments under G.L. c. 44, § 7(3).