Baltimore County Council members unanimously chose Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat Kevin Kamenetz last night to serve as chairman this year.
Kamenetz, a three-term councilman, said that given the real estate market downturn, the rising costs of oil and construction, and state budget woes, fiscal issues will be the primary challenge facing the seven-member council in the coming months.
"I think the council will continue scrutinizing budgetary issues because of our concern about potential state cutbacks as well as the other taxes imposed by the state that impact county residents," he said in an interview yesterday. The county tax rate has not increased in more than a decade, he said.
Kamenetz, an attorney, has held the largely ceremonial post three other times.
The chairman runs the council meetings and serves as liaison to the county executive. The job pays $6,000 more than the $54,000 annual salary for council members, according to the council's secretary, Thomas J. Peddicord Jr.
Although the chairman can serve consecutive terms, the post typically rotates annually among the seven council members.
Only two current council members - Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat, and T. Bryan McIntire, the council's only Republican, who represents the northern part of the county - have not served as chairman.
Catonsville Democrat Stephen G. Samuel Moxley was chairman last year.
In other business, the council approved a resolution asking state officials to include the Back River in the state's Scenic and Wild Rivers Program.
The designation would require state and local environmental officials to prepare plans to protect and enhance the river, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay in eastern Baltimore County.