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A local Christian orga­ni­zation could face fore­closure at the end of March 2022 due to taxes accrued in 2019 when the orga­ni­zation was denied tax exemption by the city of Hillsdale.

Rev. Cindy Eck­hardt, pres­ident and founder of One Step Min­istries, said that while the orga­ni­zation is a church, it does not hold tra­di­tional Sunday ser­vices and has focused on com­munity out­reach for years.

According to Eck­hardt, the group has helped provide tran­si­tional housing for the homeless, offered soup dinners at a local church, and reached thou­sands of stu­dents through school assem­blies. The orga­ni­zation opened a youth center in 2009, Eck­hardt said.

The city of Hillsdale audited the property’s tax exemption in fall of 2018, according to City Assessor Kim Thomas. 

Thomas said the city sent out a ques­tion­naire in October 2018 requesting doc­u­men­tation to confirm the organization’s tax-exempt status and demon­strate that their building was being used for a tax-exempt purpose.

Thomas said the most recent infor­mation her office had on file for the property was from the prior owner. 

When Thomas did not receive the requested infor­mation by the end of the year, she denied the min­istry tax exemption for 2019.

“At the time we were at the building, there was no indi­cation of what it was being used for,” Thomas said. “There were no posted meeting schedules or worship schedules or any­thing to indicate if it was or was not still being used for a tax-exempt purpose.”

Eck­hardt said she was unaware of the sit­u­ation until she received a 2019 tax bill. 

“We were legal before, legal during, and legal now. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit orga­ni­zation and a church,” Eck­hardt said.

Thomas said she received the requested doc­u­men­tation in Feb­ruary of this year and granted One Step Min­istries tax exemption for 2021. At a hearing in July, the city Board of Review approved One Step Min­istries’ exemption for 2020. 

The Board of Review did not have the authority to go back farther than the prior year, which left the 2019 taxes delinquent.

“If they’re not paid by March 31, 2022, then they become county property and are fore­closed on,” Hillsdale County Trea­surer Stephenie Kyser said.

Daren Wiseley, One Step Min­istries’ attorney, said he is cur­rently preparing to file an appeal with the Michigan Tax Tribunal. 

“I think it’s open and shut, just as long as we get the evi­dence in front of them and show them the timeline,” he said.