Residential and commercial property owners in New Bedford will pay higher property taxes even though the tax rate has been reduced.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell confirms that property values will be reassessed upwards and that means higher tax bills. The City Council recently approved a tax factor that lowers the rate you pay per thousand dollars valuation but, higher property values will drive your overall bill up and offset any savings from the reduced rate.

The Mayor says there are few good options for lowering taxes but, the best option is to renegotiate health care coverage for municipal employees.  Under recently enacted state law the Administration can seek arbitration after negotiating "in good faith" with the labor unions if no deal on changes is agreed to.   Mitchell says many Massachusetts communities, including Fall River have taken advantage of the new law and have realized sizable savings without making drastic changes to health care coverage.

The idea was rejected unanimously by the council during the Summer but will reemerge after the first of the year.  The council needs to give serious consideration to allowing the Administration to pursue this course.  The alternative is continuing to raise property taxes to offset the rising cost of healthcare.

New Bedford has little in the way of developable land that is attractive to expanding companies.  Reworking the golf course could help in that regard.  The administration needs to double down in marketing what space it does have to new and expanding businesses in order to create jobs and draw more tax revenue into the system, thus lowering the burden on homeowners.

Continuing to improve New Bedford's education system is also key to economic development.  A first class school system will go a long way towards making New Bedford a desirable place for executives to relocate or build their businesses and their families.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon-3 p.m. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.