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'Night Without Libraries:' Hundreds protest proposed St. Joseph Co. library funding cuts

NOW: ’Night Without Libraries:’ Hundreds protest proposed St. Joseph Co. library funding cuts

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- All 11 St Joseph County libraries shut their doors early Thursday night in protest of a tax proposal that would shift millions of dollars from one entity to another to fund a 911 dispatch center.

Community members overflowed the county council chambers in protest of the plan. The plan discussed tonight diverts $1.6 million of county taxes to help cover the $8 million operating costs of the 911 dispatch center.

More than 20 elected officials from South Bend, Mishawaka, and the county gathered for an informational meeting to talk about the funding.

Under the proposal, the library is at risk of losing half a million dollars of funding in 2020 and every year after that. Transpo and the South Bend Airport would also see funding cuts.

Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood sits on the dispatch center’s governing board. He explains that the reason for the changes would be to evenly spread the cost of the 911 call center among all county residents without raising taxes.

 “What it’s doing is taking those dollars from the growth fact of the income tax and it’s hitting all of our governing units kind of equally,” Wood said. “It’s about fairness and equal access to a system and equal responsibility for paying for that system.”

Many agree that the dispatch center is vital to public safety. They just want the county to find another way to fund it.

Council members did not vote on anything tonight. They’ll be able to cast votes by hosting public hearings and adopting resolutions in favor or against the proposed ordinance. Once a 50% threshold is reached no more voting will be required.

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