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Clinton, IA School Budget Cuts & Declining Enrollment, City Trying To Attract New Jobs

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The Clinton Community School District is cutting nearly a million dollars from the budget and they're doing it by cutting positions across the district.

Clinton Schools decided to cut 11 positions from teachers to support staff, but the superintendent said this will save money and not hurt students in the class room.

Most of the positions will go away because of attrition, people retiring and the district not rehiring. Two positions are empty at the high school and they can't find anyone to fill them, so they'll go away too and they're cutting 4 middle school positions because they're building one central middle school. Those left will be shuffled into open positions. Still, it's a tough decision for the district to make.

"We've had a loss of more students than any other school district in the state of Iowa in the last five years," said Superintendent Deb Olson.

That's 106 less students this year alone, than the last. But, why? Olson said she can't point to one thing. However, Clinton is known to have many industrial and manufacturing jobs

"I don't necessarily think that all of those jobs are available as they once were and people are going to go where they can find good paying jobs," said Olson.
     
Olson said there's new developments coming forward too, especially in the rail park area that'll add more jobs to the area. She said it's been hard to see the decline in enrollment, but their students still come first. 

"With the cuts and the reductions that were made, it wasn't done without looking at student programming and student needs," said Olson. "The reductions that will be made will have minimal impact on our kids."

The school had to make the cuts, because state funding depends on how many children are enrolled. 

"That became a huge shortfall for us and we knew that we would have to make budget reductions so that we would maintain a fair budget for our district and stay and live within our means," said Olson.

Benny Johnston is a grandmother of a child in the school district and she said the decline in enrollment is because she thinks more people are home schooling, among other things.

"Because of the lack of jobs," said Johnston. "There's just nothing here. It's easier to live here, it's cheaper to live here. But they're not making enough money with being able to live to survive."

Another parent and resident said she can understand why people would move away from Clinton, especially if they don't have family in the area.

"I think there's not much in the Clinton community to tie people here long term," said Dana Albaghdadi. "For kids I think education wise we're there, but I guess if you're looking for fun or things of that nature, of an extra curricular nature we don't have a lot of that."

Olson said part of the problem could be a decline in jobs and Clinton's social security office and jobs office leaving the city. Clinton's unemployment is at 4.7% (not seasonally adjusted). Population is also on the decline, 228 people left Clinton from July 2010 to July 2012. 

Despite these numbers, Clinton Regional Development Corporation CEO Mike Kirchhoff said part of the reason for these numbers is that people are moving out of more rural areas into more urban ones. Something he said isn't unique to the area. 

He also said like many other cities, Clinton is coming out of the recession, but is steadily gaining new job opportunities. 

Many of these new jobs are with Nevada Railroad Materials and Clinton County Bio Energy. They're also trying to attract younger families to battle an aging population. These and others are all things that could be attributing to a decline in enrollment numbers for Clinton Schools.