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Thumbs down: City is broke

Greg Mayor Ballard announced last week that the city is even more broke than we already thought it was. Despite projections of a $20-25 million shortfall, unemployment drove revenues from income taxes lower than expected this year, and a prolonged housing crisis kept value-based property taxes down. Now, Ballard says, the 2011 shortfall is looking closer to $50 million. News reports suggest the city's public safety agencies might have to cut budgets next year by 5 percent, and Ballard is already conceding he will have to tap into the city's rainy day fund. Wouldn't mind having some of that $33.5 million back that we just gave to the Pacers, eh?

Thumbs up: Green buses get green light

As IndyGo upgrades its fleet of buses, it plans to make them a little greener, too. The company announced that half of its 22 new buses, expected to roll out January, will be hybrid electric – with regenerative braking systems – which should result in savings on fuel, along with reduced emissions and quieter buses. IndyGo said the decision to convert 11 of the buses to hybrid came after the company received a federal hybrid grant; funding also came from The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Be extra careful crossing the street: If you've ever heard (or, rather, not heard) a Prius as it wisks by, you'll know the last thing you want is a quiet bus sneaking up on you.

Thumbs down: Animal overload

Everywhere you turn, the situation for Indy's domestic animals seems to be worsening. The latest: Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana (SNSI) announced last week it was halting all its financial assistance programs due to "overwhelming requests and dwindling donations and grants." SNSI, which provides financial assistance to low-income pet owners seeking spay-neuter services, said it has spent over $163,000 in surgeries over the last year. "We are receiving 40 to 50 assistance applications per week from all over Indiana from people who don't want to contribute to pet overpopulation, but they can't afford the full cost of the surgery and we can't afford to help them," said SNSI president, Juli Erhart-Graves. Want to help? Visit www.spayneuterservices.org or call (317) 767-7771.

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