Annapolis City Council slugs it out over proposed boxing ring, Universal Basic Income, other budget changes

A used boxing ring from the U.S. Naval Academy, similar to the one used Feb. 25 at the 81st annual Brigade Boxing Championships, has been donated to Pip Moyer Recreation Center. Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley is proposing additional funding to the city budget for a new youth boxing program.

Youth boxing appears to be a heavy favorite as Annapolis City Council prepares for its next bout.

While no uppercuts were thrown at the 3.5-hour work session last week, the mayor and seven council members haggled over 44 proposed amendments to the budget for fiscal 2023. Conflicts arose over everything from a universal basic income program to whether or not giving $5,000 to an Eastport church violated the U.S. Constitution.


Boxing, or at least investing $10,000 in a youth boxing program at Pip Moyer Recreation Center, was a low-cost addition that received support from several council members. Thanks to a used ring donated to the police department by a Naval Academy contractor, Mayor Gavin Buckley says the center will be able to begin offering boxing lessons this fall, hopefully with both academy students and police officers volunteering to help run the program.

“We will have a very exciting initiative starting at Pip Moyer,” the mayor said, arguing that the boxing program would promote camaraderie between the academy, the police athletic league and Annapolis-area youth. The mayor proposes spending $10,000 on a tent that can house the program temporarily while the city searches for a permanent indoor home.


“It’s worth trying,” Buckley said, citing the success of a similar boxing program in Baltimore.

Council member Rhonda Pindell-Charles, a Democrat from Ward 3, said she was at the recreation center when the equipment was delivered. “It was very exciting,” she said. “It’s a great way to bring discipline and focus to children.”

Other budget proposals failed to earn ringing endorsements. Many of the 44 amendments represent special interests projects endorsed by council members. Most draw on federal funds and other reserves. None would raise taxes, although they would reduce the city’s rollover funding for fiscal 2024, and could eventually lead to a budget deficit.

The May 26 budget workshop served as a precursor to a marathon budget meeting scheduled for Monday, when the members will vote “yea” or “nay” on the additions, comparable to the annual “Vote-a-rama” conducted by the U.S. Congress.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting, which gavels in at 10 a.m., here are some additional proposed changes to the city’s roughly $100 million general fund budget.

Lights, credit cards, pickleball

Buckley proposes installing lights at the Truxtun Park pickleball courts and pay-to-play credit card machines so matches can continue after dark. Credit cards would also be attached to the tennis court lights. Buckley said costs will be offset by athletes playing to light the courts in the near future.

Free transit

Buckley and Alderman DaJuan Gay, a Democrat from Ward 6, proposed spending $700,000 to make public transit free in the City of Annapolis. Council members agree the city transit is underutilized, but disagreed as to whether making the city free for all riders is the answer. Other possibilities include a pilot program or conducting a ridership study first.

Separation of church and state

A surprise amendment reallocates a $5,000 community grant that had been originally earmarked for Eastport United Methodist Church. Katie Connolly, a senior accountant in the finance department, said the grant was mistakenly awarded by city staffers charged with doling out $342,000 in community grants. Those staffers “didn’t realize there was a church in there,” Connolly said, and the grant was revoked.


Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson took offense to the grant being rescinded, setting up a showdown between the Ward 4 Democrat and City Attorney D. Michael Lyles, who called the matter “a constitutional issue” that would violate “one of the principle tenets of government.”

Finlayson disagreed. “I contend that there is a way for us to support our local churches when they support us,” she said. “We need the services they provide.”

Finance Director Jodee Dickinson suggested that Finlayson was conflating grants to churches with grants to nonprofits based out of houses of worship, such as the Backpack Buddies program at Heritage Baptist Church.

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“I understand that,” Finlayson replied. She urged her colleagues to “look more closely” at ways to support churches.

Universal basic income

For the second year in a row, Gay is urging the council to adopt a universal basic income program. For fiscal 2023, he hasproposed an $800,000 pilot program that would award $500 a month to 100 families, using money the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act, federal money allocated through a COVID-relief package that must be spent over the next two years.

Gay said the Annapolis program would be modeled on an initiative in Stockton, California, that has proven families use the money for food, housing and to take time off from lower-paying jobs and apply for better-paying work. Baltimore City is also running a trial UBI program.


Aldermen Rob Savidge of Ward 7 and Ross Arnett of Ward 8 said they supported the idea in concept as a tool to reduce income inequity, but both Democrats had concerns about long-term funding.

“We need to be moving in this direction as a society,” Savidge said.

Union contract negotiations

Last month, police officers ratified a new contract that delivers a 19% raise over two years. The mayor’s budget had proposed a 13% increase. Firefighters are scheduled to vote Thursday on their contract, while employees from two local AFSCME bargaining units also have also yet to ratify agreements.

Contracts with all three unions expire June 30, and the finalized agreements could require additional budget adjustments.