Now retired, Kochuba said he is dedicated to working full time as a civil servant for the people of Colonial Heights.
The current mayor of Colonial Heights, Greg Kochuba, is running for reelection to a fourth term on the city council. Kochuba has been on the city council for 12 years, spending half of that time as mayor, which is a title given to a member of the council that has been nominated and elected by council members for a two-year term.
Kochuba worked in finance for the Department of Defense for over 36 years, giving him the experience that he believes is important for leaders in the community right now. He told Petersburg Scope in an interview that it is essential to have a diverse city council with different professional backgrounds in order for the legislators to best serve the citizens.
According to his website, Kochuba serves on the boards for the Capital Region Red Cross, Virginia Gateway Region, Richmond Regional Tourism, Crater Workforce Development and Colonial Heights Audit Committee.
The mayor said he enjoys working on the budget and trying to ensure that they remain good stewards of taxpayer dollars. “I really take joy in that, going through the budget and making sure we are executing and developing it properly.”
Kochuba also believes that his experience is more important now than ever, citing his broad understanding of the city’s operations as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. “When COVID hit, we were in the middle of developing our current budget, so we knew we had to take immediate action.”
He told Petersburg Scope that the members of the city council had to decide which items in the budget that they would not execute while trying to keep the same level of services in the city. Conduit Road was scheduled to be repaved which would have cost $1 million, that project was put on hold along with a cost-of-living pay raise for city employees that would have totaled $419,000. “We’re not canceling them,” he emphasized while reiterating that the raises were only put on hold as the city continues to navigate the pandemic.
Kochuba said he also wants to ensure that Colonial Heights leaders remain as transparent as possible with the people in the city when discussing the effects of COVID-19. “We need to be very informative to the public when we can,” he said in an interview. “We need to provide them with the services that they are used to and also provide them with the trends and the actions that we are taking to confront the virus.”
He also stressed the importance of guaranteeing that first responders in the city are properly equipped to protect themselves while they serve the community. “We need to keep our first responders up to date and equipped to respond to patients with COVID-19,” said Kochuba. “One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that they’re prepared and have the right equipment to confront COVID-19.”
Colonial Heights received more than $3 million in federal funding from the CARES Act stimulus package and these funds come with strict instructions on how the money can be spent. The CPA firm that works with the city council was involved in each decision to disperse the funds, ensuring that the money was used appropriately, says Kochuba.
He also said that the city council dispersed $500,000 directly to small businesses in Colonial Heights. “We want them to survive,” he said, while referring to small businesses as the “backbone of the city.”
The mayor also noted that despite the virus, revenue from the sales tax actually increased this summer compared to the same time last year. The remaining revenue sources remained relatively stable, according to Kochuba, with the exception of the hotel industry, which benefits from personal and business travel which has dropped during the pandemic.
“New businesses are still coming to the community despite COVID.”
But still, according to the Mayor, the outlook for Colonial Heights is positive. He said that Mission BBQ is still planning on opening a location in the city and Panera Bread intends to move to a larger building near Longhorns. While he is optimistic about the city’s finances, Kochuba wants to remain cautious moving forward. “The city will, as a matter of caution, need to continue to walk really slow because we don’t know if there will be a downturn to this.”
Keeping schools funded
Colonial Heights Public Schools (CHPS) received a large chunk of CARES Act funding to help them update their building’s ventilation and make other accommodations due to COVID-19. The schools are funded in part by an agreement with the city council called a “Memorandum of Understanding,” (MOU) which states that the schools receive 50.7% of Colonial Heights’ general revenue.
This is a unique agreement between the city council and school board, which most localities in the area do not have. The mayor talked about how smooth it makes the process for councilors and school board members. “Every year, you turn on the TV at budget time, other localities’ legislators are fighting with the schools about funding and they are beating each other up and it gets ugly,” said Kochuba about the MOU agreement with the schools.
Kochuba says that the city council can readjust the MOU if needed, but he noted that the board has always been understanding and adjusted accordingly if the city’s revenue dips or rises. “I think we are still going to be okay because of our tax revenue still maintaining,” he said, also noting that the state and federal government’s fund the other half of the budget.
Colonial Heights residents have likely noticed the issues on Conduit Road that arose after monumental rains hit the area one day late this summer. Crews took several weeks to repair multiple breaks in sewage lines under the road in the north end of the city, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. Noting that some of the sewer pipes on the southern end of the city are 100 years old, Kochuba said he wants them to be upgraded. However, he noted it will be difficult and expensive, with some of the pipes being buried 20 feet beneath the roads.
After walking through the city streets in recent months, Kochuba says that one goal he wants to work towards moving forward is raising the property values in the city, pointing out that buying a home is often one of the biggest investments a person makes in their lifetime. “The city can assist in maintaining and increasing your property value and I think that’s really important,” he said in an interview.
The mayor also wants the city to work harder to advertise a tax abatement program that offers a tax incentive for properties that are at least 25-years-old. Homeowners that make improvements to increase the assessed value of their property will then only pay a real-estate tax based on the value of the house prior to the improvements. (More information here)
There are six candidates running for four city council in Colonial Heights this year. You can find out more about the other candidates here, and be on the lookout for more candidate profiles from Petersburg Scope in the coming days.
As local newsrooms are losing writers each day, we are trying to fill the void to ensure that the public is informed and that leaders are held accountable for their actions. If you can chip in a monthly subscription of whatever you can afford, even $1, it will go a long way to helping us. Subscribe here. You can also make a one-time donation below: