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Continued concerns over funding cuts to Tolson Center, budget vote postponed

ELKHART, Ind.--  Several last minute changes to the 2018 proposed city budget caused the council to delay their final vote on Thursday.

Throughout the budget hearing process, council chambers have filled with residents voicing their disapproval of proposed funding cuts to the Tolson Center.

“I would hope the city council understands the message they are giving to our community,” says longtime resident Donald Brown.

Brown is one of the hundreds of Elkhart kids who grew up going to the Tolson Center.

“It was a very big part of my life, it gave me hope,” says Brown.

The city is looking into allowing an outside organization take control of the community center.

“I don’t want to see Tolson closed. It’s about a constructive dialogue in how to make Tolson better, where we are having problems --to correct them,” says Mayor Tim Neese.

Mayor Neese says he wants to work with the community to see how things can improve at the center. He says bringing in an outside organization could provide a lot more resources then can be provided right now.

The money taken from the Tolson’s budget was moved to another fund that can be added back in later on.

“We want it to be bigger, better than, promote more and we think an outsider can probably do it better than we are,” says councilmember David Henke.

But, the outsider interested in taking over is a faith based organization.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a statement to council members ahead of Thursday’s meeting arguing that a deal with Lifeline Ministries would violate the principle of separation between church and state.

Not all council members are on board, including Dwight Fish—the Tolson Center is in his district.

“If this community hasn’t been up in arms before, it is now,” says council member Dwight Fish.

Supporters of the Tolson Center plan to meet on Monday at 6 p.m. at the Roosevelt Center.

The budget vote has been pushed to October 23.

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