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TOWN CLERK CUTS OFFICE HOURS OVER TAX-COLLECTION DISPUTE

Amherst residents seeking a dog license or a handicapped parking permit may want to check the calendar before dropping by the town clerk's office.

Otherwise, they could find themselves in the middle of a long-running dispute over who should collect taxes in Amherst -- the town clerk or a lock box at a local bank.

Town Clerk Susan J. Jaros this week began closing her office on Tuesdays and Thursdays in reaction to a Town Board resolution that cut $18,000 from her budget. According to lawmakers, Jaros no longer needs the funds because her former tax-collecting duties are now being handled by a local bank using a lock box.

"People don't want the lock box. That's what they're telling me. That's my opinion, too," Jaros said Thursday.

But according to one Town Board member, Jaros is betraying the public.

"I was town clerk for about two years. . . . This is not the way to settle any kind of argument," said Council Member William L. Kindel, who led the move to change the method for tax collections.

Jaros, a longtime foe of the lock box system, Tuesday posted a letter to the public on her office door complaining about the budget cut and naming the four Town Board members who voted to delete the funds.

As a result, the letter said, six part-time workers had to be laid off.

"Please direct any concerns to the Town Board members. The (board's) . . . office is located at the end of the hall," the letter concluded.

Jaros also recently delivered to Town Board members a 20-page petition signed by residents who oppose the new collection method. Many residents prefer paying their taxes to a clerk because they are given a town receipt showing the date and name of the clerk who waited on them, as well as the number of the check used to make the payment, she said.

However, other town employees expressed concerns, saying the office closings have turned away some elderly residents who are walking with the aid of canes and crutches.

And, according to Kindel, the six workers were needed only for tax collections.

"The people let go are the ones that are there for the taxes," he said.

Kindel also said he expects the Town Board to pass another resolution that will prevent Jaros from closing the office in the future.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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