A property tax increase in Sussex and surrounding areas will give the struggling PotashCorp Civic Centre the money it needs to keep going, the province announced Thursday.

A total of $315,000 will go each year to the civic centre after Sussex, Sussex Corner, Norton and the local service districts of Studholm, Sussex, Cardwell, and Waterford agreed to a property tax increase.

Property owners in those areas will now pay 2.5 cents per $100 of property assessment, up from the current rate of one cent.

Bridget Ryan, chair of the board of directors for the civic centre, was grateful for the increased contribution, announced by Environment and Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle.

"It gives new life to this facility," she said.


Bridget Ryan, chair of the board of directors for the civic centre, welcomed the funding, which comes from property taxes in three local municipalities and four local service districts. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

Ryan said Rousselle was was moved by the various letters he received from residents in the area about needing the centre, which was named for the mining company that donated $1 million to build it.

"It just shows democracy at work," Ryan said. "They were letters from the heart about people's stories."

The civic centre, which has a pool, exercise room and walking track, suffered financially after PotashCorp, a major employer in town, closed its mine. The centre has been running at a deficit, and the board feared it would have to keep the pool closed and reduce hours.

Rousselle said he received more than 100 letters from residents of local service districts.

"I think when we take a look around the beautiful facility we can agree this is place worth maintaining," he said.

Requirements for funding

But the money comes with three conditions the board must meet, Rouselle said.

Membership on the board must be broadened to include people with expertise in such fields as accounting, law and business administration.

The centre's fiscal year must switch to a calendar year, so it aligns with the three municipalities and four local service districts.


The civic centre has a pool, a gym and a track. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

And the board must offer quarterly fiscal updates to the minister.

The budget and audited financial statements should be submitted yearly to the member communities and posted on the civic centre's website, Rouselle said.

He called supporting the long-term viability of the centre a good decision.

Hesitation at first

The PostashCorp Civic Centre opened five years ago, when about 420 people worked at the mine. 

Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne said the original funding model was a problem and provided only $135,000 to the centre from taxes. 


The board of the civic centre worried the pool would have to stay closed after maintenance work. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

Local service districts, meanwhile, were hesitant to increase their contributions.

Now that new funding is in place for the foreseeable future, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of memberships drives and fundraising, Ryan said.