Councilors offered mixed reactions to a proposal for local option sales tax that is currently making its way through the state Legislature.

Mayor Samantha Paradis said the state’s Mayors’ Coalition supports the legislation, as does she. There are many municipalities with property tax mill rates higher than $20, she noted, including Belfast. Having the option to charge a local sales tax could provide some property tax relief by shifting more costs to city visitors, she said. The bill only would allow local sales tax on restaurant meals and lodging.

Distribution of the tax would be 85 percent to the municipality in which it is collected, with the remaining 15 percent allotted to other municipalities to spend on fighting the opioid crisis, Paradis explained.

“The net amount of funds must be used for preventing and treating opioid disorder,” she said.

Some councilors said they supported the idea of a local sales tax option, but were skeptical it would be approved.

“I think it would be a great thing for towns that provide the services,” Councilor Mike Hurley said, adding that he likes the requirement for a citizen referendum included in the legislation.

Councilor Neal Harkness noted the tax will apply to everyone, “The fact you live in Belfast doesn’t mean you won’t pay the tax when you go to Darby’s.”

Questions about the language regarding prepared foods were raised by Councilor Eric Sanders and echoed by Councilor Mary Mortier. Sanders said the language appears to apply only to restaurants, not prepared foods, such as slices of pizza to go.

“I do support the idea of an option,” he said. “ … This, on paper, is a sound idea.”

Mortier, too, said she liked the idea of an option to charge local sales tax. “I think the most important part is voters get to decide,” she said.

Weighing in against the proposal was Councilor Paul Dean.

“Right out of the box, I’m actually against this,” he said, adding that he does not support more taxes. But Dean admitted a local sales tax could be beneficial to the city. He said he liked the requirement for voters to have a say.

“If we can come up with something the people support, let’s hop on and ride,” he said.

Harkness also asked if the rules would apply to currently unregulated Airbnbs in the city.

Paradis said she did not have answers to the council’s questions about prepared foods or Airbnbs, but that she would speak with the bill's sponsor.

The Taxation Committee has made ought-not-to-pass recommendations on proposals for local option sales tax — LD 65, sponsored by Rep. Pinny Bebee-Center, D-Rockland, and LD 1110, sponsored by Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach.

However, Paradis said the local option sales tax bill remains “alive and well," and could be taken up by the full Legislature in May.