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Hempfield board hopeful owes $32K in taxes

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A candidate for Hempfield Area School Board owes the state nearly $32,000 in taxes but said his financial problems are business-related and should have no bearing on his campaign.

Frank Venzon, who owns Franko's Sports Bar & Grill in Jeannette, said the unpaid taxes resulted from another business that failed.

Venzon is seeking the Republican and Democratic nominations, along with incumbents Sonya Brajdic, Diane Ciabattoni, Joe Lutz and Robert McDonald.

Venzon and his wife, Lora, operated the now-closed Lora V's restaurant in the Greensburg Shopping Center. He said his tax problems are related to Lora V's.

“Rather than filing for bankruptcy, we lived up to our obligations,” Venzon said. “I'm on a payment plan. We did not go belly up. We lived up to our obligations and are trying to get out from underneath them. I'm your average, normal person.”

Venzon's tax bill dates to 2005 when he failed to pay the state Department of Revenue more than $8,300 in taxes. His last state tax bill for $839 was filed in February, according to liens filed in Westmoreland County.

In 2008, Union Real Estate Company of Pittsburgh sought a judgment of nearly $43,000, alleging the Venzons breached their lease with Lora V's, according to court filings. The case is pending.

Venzon said he is seeking a school director's seat because he disagrees with how the board is managing the district.

“There are an awful lot of bad decisions being made,” he said. “There are things that need to be changed within the district. Money is being spent the wrong way.”

If he is elected, Venzon will join a school board that raised taxes 1.4 mills last year and plans another 1.5-mill increase for the 2013-14 term.

The district faces rising costs for health care and pension contributions. The board has cut costs by closing an elementary school and may shut down an alternative education program.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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