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Two frequent adversaries in Amherst government -- Republican Councilman Harold J. Collier and Democratic Supervisor Daniel J. Ward -- are treading on common ground on at least one issue these days.

Both say they're looking for ways to maintain services without sharp tax increases over the next few years.

Last week, Ward asked the Town Board's six Republican councilmen to consider a moratorium on new capital-construction projects "through all or part of 1991, until this fiscal situation begins to stabilize."

Collier said he would support a freeze on engineering and highway projects, which account for the bulk of the town's $9 million capital-improvements budget for next year.

Ward also gave the board a long list of potential belt-tightening measures, including:

A freeze on hiring, promotions and pay.

No overtime, except in emergencies.

A ban against buying or leasing new equipment priced at more than $500 and on new contracts of more than $5,000 for outside services.

No out-of-state travel, air travel, or in-state travel to job-related conferences or seminars.

Collier wants to study the list. "I'm for whatever will save us money, as long as it doesn't have a detrimental impact on the day-to-day ability of this government to function," he said.

The most expensive new project in the town's 1991 capital budget is a $2.25 million extension of Youngs Road, from Casey to Dodge roads, and an accompanying $1.3 million sanitary sewer project.

The capital budget allocates $1.5 million next year and $750,000 in 1992 for the Youngs Road extension. The sewer's total cost of $1.3 million is budgeted for 1991.

Other capital projects that officials say could be postponed include $400,000 in drainage improvements and $200,000 for a new clubhouse at the Audubon Golf Course and a $200,000 addition at the Amherst Museum.

At an afternoon work session Dec. 17, Ward said Town Board members showed "real apprehension" about federal and state "fiscal difficulties . . . and how they might impact our local budget."

Federal block-grant funds are expected to continue their decline, from $543,000 this year to about $513,000 next year, said Assistant Planning Director Charles O. Brown.

State revenue sharing will dip from $2.2 million to $1.9 million next year, noted Comptroller Donald E. Burkard.

In addition, state operation-and-maintenance aid for the town's sewage treatment plant is projected at about $300,000, down from $758,000 in 1985.

The $300,000 in state aid to operate the treatment plant represents a tiny fraction of the 33 1/3 percent pledged by the state in the 1970s as an incentive to build the $117 million plant.

Also worrying Amherst officials are forecasts of declining sales and mortgage-tax revenues stemming from the worsening economy.

Further clouding the town's fiscal picture are some new projects scheduled to show up on town tax bills for the first time in 1992, officials said.

They are a $1.4 million park and swimming pool off North Forest Road, the $2 million Harlem Road Community Center, and a $3.8 million ice-skating rink and recreation center off Millersport Highway, if the board approves.

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