Some state tax filers might notice their refunds are a little lighter — if those filers also owe money to a local government.

A debt-recovery program run through the Illinois Comptroller's Office last year garnished $40 million from debtors' state tax refunds and sent it back to 400 units of government statewide.

Of that, just over $450,000 was divided among 15 institutions across Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall and Fulton counties, according to Comptroller Susana Mendoza's staff.

More than half the money went to Illinois Central College, which received more than $234,000. Most of the debt it was collecting on related to overdue tuition payments from former students who never paid, according to Bruce Budde, the school's executive vice president of administration and finance.

He said the school first makes efforts to contact individuals multiple times, and even works out payment plans — in that instance, former students also have to have defaulted on those — before pursuing outside collections.

"We're probably more lenient than some businesses, but as a public entity we have some obligation (to pursue the funds)," Budde said, describing the amount they've retrieved as sufficient to prevent a $1 per credit hour increase in tuition.

Since joining the program in January 2015, ICC has received more than $750,000 from the comptroller's program — about 17 percent of the school's outstanding tuition debt — without added finder's fees to outside collection agencies. They have about $4 million in funds for which they've submitted collection requests.

Not all those who owe are still Illinois residents, and among those who are, not everyone will necessarily receive a state income tax refund — or have enough in one year's refund to cover all the debt they owe.

The Woodford County Circuit Clerk's Office, which deals with court-levied fines and fees, is under contract with an outside collections office that first tries "multiple times" to arrange payments, Circuit Clerk Lynne Gilbert said.

Those who can't be reached or don't comply are forwarded to the state for participation in the comptroller's program.

Last year marked the first full tax season that Woodford was involved, and Gilbert said she was satisfied with the result, some $33,337 collected.

"It's worked pretty good for us," she said, pointing to recommendations of the program from employees at the county's outside collections agency, as well as on-site help from the state on setting up the office's participation.

For Spoon River College, which has participated in the program for more than three years, it helps the college avoid having to use a third party for debt collection and keeps the college on budget with its anticipated revenue, President Curt Oldfield said.

"This is an example of state government working with units of local government to be more efficient," he said.