Amherst will go after more than $2 million in back taxes owed by the owners of two senior apartment complexes.

The Town Board has directed its attorneys to work with Erie County and the Sweet Home and Williamsville school districts to begin legal action against M.J. Peterson Corp. and the Related Companies to recoup years of back taxes owed on their Brewster Mews and Peppertree Heights apartments.

The issue recently came to light when the companies asked Amherst officials to renew the tax breaks they have been receiving for some three decades.

Not only did the town decline the proposal, but also realized the owners hadn’t qualified for the tax breaks the past 17 years but continued to take them.

Amherst estimated the lost taxes at about $2.5 million, the bulk owed to the county and school districts.

“There has been some preliminary discussions that haven’t gone anywhere,” said Amherst Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones. “We’re kind of at a stalemate, so this is the first step toward trying to collect what we believe is owed.”

Attorneys for M.J. Peterson and Related have said the companies informed Amherst in 1996 that their business status had changed and they were no longer eligible for payments-in-lieu-of-taxes on their Brewster Mews and Peppertree Heights apartments.

But Amherst never took action, so the apartment owners continued to accept the tax breaks.

The case has prompted town officials to take a closer look at what other tax-exempt properties are in Amherst. The board asked the offices of the comptroller and assessor to catalog all the parcels with a tax exemption, including when the tax breaks were approved and when they expire.

“Brewster Mews and Peppertree brought up a concern for the board that there were a lot of exemptions and special considerations made well before any of our times on the board,” said Council Member Guy R. Marlette. “It’s imperative we understand what’s out there.”