Massachusetts has a limit on how much property taxes can be raised each year. It was passed by the citizens and it can be changed only by the citizens.

The public school teachers in Dartmouth are looking for a pay raise and there is nothing wrong with that at all. The labor market is very tight at this moment and that makes it an opportune time to ask for more money and benefits. If the town isn't able to satisfy the requests of individual teachers, they have an opportunity to go into the labor market and find a more appealing financial package.

Dartmouth has relatively low property taxes in comparison to other Massachusetts cities and towns. The 2019 tax rate for homeowners is $9.93 per $1000 of value and the commercial rate is $16.13 per $1000 of property value. The city of New Bedford taxes for residents is $16.47 on the $1000 and $34.84 for commercial property on the $1000 in value.

The people in Dartmouth have always valued their schools and I'm sure they are open to an honest discussion about the costs of maintaining a system that delivers quality education. The public schools and all of the extracurricular activities they deliver are crucial to a strong community.

The strength of the teachers' argument for more money is how the public feels about the teachers when they vote for the override at the ballot box. Labor fights can get nasty and there are times when loud campaigns of intimidation by labor works to force management into agreeing to wage increases.

This is not one of those occasions.

The Dartmouth teachers appear to have the support of at least some of the elected officials on the select board, school committee, and finance committee. That level of support is crucial as the public discussion goes forward.

Dartmouth has an opportunity to show other communities how a level headed, fact-based discussion about the cost of quality education can move a community forward. Or they can become a hotbed of political propaganda and viciousness that will fracture the town for a generation.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at chris.mccarthy@townsquaremedia.com and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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