Church steps in to save Christian school in KCK

08/03/2012 12:00 AM

08/03/2012 2:01 PM

A small Christian school facing closure because of unpaid taxes has been bailed out by a Kansas City, Kan., church.

Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship Church came to the rescue of the 55-year-old Muncie Christian School on Thursday with a plan to buy the school and a promise to pay the school’s $144,000 debt to the Internal Revenue Service.

School officials said they learned last week that the IRS intended to shut the school down, effective Aug. 21, if the debt was not paid.

The faith-based school for students in kindergarten through 12th grade had failed to make payroll withholding tax payments since 2008.

“Muncie has always struggled financially,” said school administrator Mendy Lietzen. “Many years we ended with a deficit.”

Enrollment had dropped from 190 during the 2000-01 fiscal year to 96 in 2010-11, according to federal tax documents.

Lietzen said the school’s finances took a dramatic turn when the economy tanked in the recession of the last four years. “A lot of our families lost jobs, they lost their homes,” she said.

Muncie ended 2009 with $58,000 in unpaid tuition. “We opened the next year on faith,” Lietzen said. Teachers sometimes worked without getting paid.

When Kelly Lohrke, the pastor at Praise Chapel, learned of the school’s predicament on Monday, he approached his church board about saving Muncie, which says it is the only Christian-based school in Wyandotte County serving elementary, middle and high school students in one place.

“With all that is going on in this world today, we can’t afford to lose a Christian school that has been in the area for 55 years,” Lohrke said. “The goal is to buy the school in one lump sum for the tax debt and then rally around it, get involved with its leadership, and make any improvements it needs to help make sure it doesn’t get in this position again.”

Muncie has been at its current location, 3650 N. 67th St., since 1999 when it purchased the site’s two red-brick buildings from the Kansas City, Kan., School District for $25,000.

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