Hilliard Northwest News

Triennial update savings

Auditor returns $660,000 to Hilliard schools

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Hilliard City Schools officials said they were happy to receive an unexpected boost in revenue, courtesy of the Franklin County Auditor's Office.

The district received $659,550, a 6-percent slice of the $10.5 million the auditor's office will return to townships, municipalities, school districts, library systems and other public agencies that paid property taxes in 2011, 2012 and 2013, said David O'Neil, a spokesman for Auditor Clarence Mingo.

"We could have saved the money and spent it elsewhere in our office, but the money is best suited to be returned to governments and school districts," O'Neil said.

He said many schools and cities have struggled because of reduced state and federal funding sources.

Such reimbursements are not uncommon, O'Neil said, but the $10.5 million represents a record amount, besting the $8.8 million returned to Franklin County cities and school districts in 2004, when Joe Testa was county auditor.

The savings stem from lower-than-anticipated expenses for the county auditor's office in conducting the triennial update of property values, O'Neil said.

Mingo also attributed the savings to modern technology and frugal spending in the office.

The reimbursements were proportional to taxes the district paid in the past three years.

For example, Columbus City Schools is set to receive a $2.3-million refund, and Dublin City Schools will get a refund of about $700,000, O'Neil said.

Hilliard school board President Andy Teater lauded Mingo's management and the decision to reimburse school districts and other agencies.

"It is rare in Ohio for a county auditor to return money like this," he said.

Teater said the money would be returned to the general fund and used for the district's operating costs.

Treasurer Brian Wilson said Aug. 25 the district already had received the reimbursement.

"It will be returned to the general fund and is not tied to any one project," Wilson said. "If any other revenue is short, this will offset it."

The district previously estimated revenue of $173 million for fiscal year 2015.

The estimated expenses for fiscal year 2015 total $171.8 million, Wilson said.

The triennial update, which sets home valuations for taxing purposes, looked at 430,000 properties in the county, according to Mingo. 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.

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 has set up informal valuation-review sites across the county through September. Those who wish to challenge their updated valuations are encouraged to bring supporting documentation to the reviews, O'Neil said.

Local review sessions were held earlier this week at the Makoy Center in Hilliard. Sessions also are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4, and Friday, Sept. 5, at the Dublin Community Recreation Center, 5600 Post Road. A full schedule is available on the auditor's website.

O'Neil said 9,000 property owners challenged the valuations in 2011. In about two-thirds of those cases, he said, the property values were lowered.

The last update in 2011 showed Franklin County lost $3.76 billion in property value, which officials attribute to the Great Recession, Mingo told ThisWeek. 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," Mingo said. "Slow and responsible growth is what we want long term."

ThisWeek staff writer Gary Seman Jr. contributed to this story.

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