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The 8th Hussars Sports Centre has served as a focal point of recreational activity in the community since it opened in 1973. (Town of Sussex)

The Town of Sussex may lose its arena after facing a $152,000 shortfall in operating costs.

The municipality is considering a user fee or an annual tax to help cover the costs of the 8th Hussars Sports Centre, but neither idea is proving popular.

A user fee could see families paying hundreds of dollars more to enrol their children in sports and would only be a short-term solution.

"They can't do it. Plain and simple," said Stacy Charlton, who has a 10-year-old daughter who figure skates and is also in a figure skating club.

"We have people with three, four kids in these sports. And when you tack on $200, minor hockey is $330, to two or three kids, it isn't possible."

User fees already cover about 65 per cent of the facility's operating budget of $430,000, said Charlton.

If user fees are expected to cover 100 per cent of the costs, registration would plummet and the arena would be forced to close anyway, she said.

She supports the annual tax proposal over a user fee.

"I see these kids, running like I used to. And they fall down the same way, holding out their hand on the ice. And I see what we're doing is the same — holding out our hand, asking for help."

Tax increase for greater area

The tax would be based on property value, and would be a longer-term solution for the arena, spread out over 20 years, said funding committee chair Mark Webster.

"On a $100,000 property, we would be asking for $11.60 for that year, as their contribution towards it," he said.

The committee has proposed the tax be applied in Sussex, the Village of Sussex Corner, the Village of Norton and the LSDs of Cardwell, Studholm, Waterford and Sussex since the percentage of users from outside the town limits has increased.

It would be a 20-year agreement, but all parties would have a two-year "opt out" clause and any surpluses generated through the tax would be shared equally through a reduced tax rate the following year, said Webster.

But some area residents contend the tax is unfair. They argue they don't use the arena and shouldn't be the ones paying for the facility.

The funding committee says it's trying to move quickly to finalize a plan before fall registration begins.

A decision is expected at the end of August.

The 8th Hussars Sports Centre has served as a focal point of recreational activity in the community since it opened in 1973.

The facility, which has been refurbished several times over the years, has also hosted graduations, agricultural fairs, balloon fiestas, flea markets, and home shows.