WEST SENECA, N.Y.- West Seneca homeowners can expect to pay more in taxes, after the town board approved an 8.6 percent tax hike on Monday night.

It was another raucous meeting at West Seneca Town Hall as upset residents turned out to hear the West Seneca Town Board approve that significant 8.6 percent tax hike. Town officials say that for the owner of an average $150,000 home this increase on the town portion of their property taxes will cost them an extra $97 a year.

Taxpayers have been angry ever since the town board initially proposed a 12 percent increase in taxes. Now after two budget hearings with some tweaking here and there on reductions in town spending, the board was able to come up with this 8.6 percent increase.

Supervisor Sheila Meegan and Councilman Eugene Hart voted for the budget and tax hike while Councilman William Hanley voted no.

The council members expressed frustration as well, but said this was the best they could come up with in the face of soaring employee health care and worker's compensation costs that make up more than half of this tax hike amount .

Councilman Eugene Hart was asked if the board should have done more to avoid such an increase. He replied, "I didn't see a four percent increase in health care all by itself. Okay, I didn't see there was a tremendous increase in the workman's compensation that we're paying over last year. Okay that went up."

2 On Your Side asked Councilman Hanley, "Realistically do you think they could have cut deeper to grt this below this 8 point six percent?"

He responded, "I do not think we could have got it any lower that 8 percent. With the health care alone, went up 18 percent. We saved $200,000 on worker's comp this year and then the state came in and raised the fees $200,000. So it was net neutral."

One taxpayer later told us, "That's all they keep saying is, we're doing our job, we're doing our job. If you were doing your job, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

We did not have reaction from Supervisor Sheila Meegan, who is also the chief budget officer, because she left immediately after the meeting down a locked back hallway without taking reporter's questions. She also left without answering questions after the vote on her $9,000 dollar salary hike last year.

Councilmen Hart and Hanley say they cannot guarantee that this will be last tax hike for a while. They also feel comparisons with other towns are incorrect because of different property assessment formulas.

There has been talk of a citizens advisory panel to help craft next year's budget. Contract negotiations are at an impasse with the town's blue collar union for concessions. Board officials say a mediator is involved.