The Franklin County Auditor's Office will return $10.5 million to local schools and municipalities after finding savings in the triennial update process.
Auditor Clarence Mingo II said it sets a new record, as the amount to be returned is 19 percent greater than the previous high in 2004, when Auditor Joe Testa returned $8.8 million to schools and political jurisdictions.
Mingo attributes the savings to modern technology and frugal spending in the office.
"The result is we were able to exceed the previous record," Mingo said. "We could keep it or return it to taxpayers or taxing jurisdiction."
Of the local school districts, Columbus City Schools received the biggest return, nearly $2.3 million.
"We very much appreciate the Franklin County Auditor's thriftiness and the allocation of additional funds to support Columbus City Schools and our students," said Jacqueline Bryant, spokeswoman for CCS.
"Rest assured, we will be very judicious in how we use these funds to support our continued academic improvement efforts."
Similarly, the city of Columbus received the most -- $329,000 -- of any local political subdivision.
Mingo said the triennial update, which sets home valuations for taxing purposes, looked at 430,000 properties in the county. Officials studied market values over the past three years. The reappraisal process, which involves physical inspection of those properties, also is done every three years.
Refunds are not uncommon. In 2011, Mingo said his office returned $7.5 million.
The auditor's office on Aug. 8 sent the tentative values via letter to property owners, who have the opportunity to contest the findings. The office will set up informal valuation-review sites across the county from the end of August through September. Those who wish to challenge their updated valuation are encouraged to bring supporting documentation to the reviews, said David O'Neil, spokesman for the auditor's office.
He said 9,000 property owners challenged the valuations in 2011. In about two-thirds of those cases, O'Neil said, the property value was lowered.
The last update in 2011 showed Franklin County lost $3.76 billion in property value, which officials attribute to the Great Recession, Mingo said. This triennial update, however, showed a recovery of $450 million, he said.
"It shows that the market is coming back but at a very slow pace," he said. "Slow and responsible growth is what we want long-term."