The issue of the ever-increasing Anchorage School District budget is one that few politicians shy away from.
All of them, serving on the school board or otherwise, agree that the district needs to be getting the best bang for its buck.
Some look at the figures and cringe: a 75 percent increase in spending over the past 10 years, with next year's school budget projected at nearly $812 million.
But ASD says if you dig into the numbers, the increases aren't truly as big and bad as they might seem.
The budget book itself is a monster, weighing in at almost seven pounds and 1,000 pages.
"The biggest amount of expenditure comes personnel, and the biggest chunk of that is teachers," said school board member Don Smith.
The self-described fiscal conservative says all the talk about how much the budget has increased over the years -- and how much needs to be cut to get back on track -- might be overstated.
"It really isn't as fat as some people think it is," Smith said. "It's easy to criticize, but you start digging down through this thing, and you'll discover it's a pretty amazing piece of work."
Starting in the 2002-03 school year, the overall Anchorage School District budget was $464 million. Over time, it's grown to a projected $812 million for next school year.
That overall budget figure contains four individual funds: the general school district fund, money to pay off voter-approved bond debt, grants and money to pay for school breakfasts and lunches.
School board member Pat Higgins says the board can't cut the voter-approved bond debt fund because it is money that needs to be paid off eventually.
Federal, state and local grant money usually has specific stipulations attached to it, and can't be used for whatever the board decides.
Food service money can't be spent for other projects, either.
"We can't take money out of debt, we can't take money out of grants, and we can't take money out of food service," Higgins said.
So when talking about "cutting the budget," that leaves the school district's general fund to deal with: the one fund where there can be substantial cuts made.
Next year's general fund is projected to be $638 million. It, too, has gone up considerably since 2002, when it was only $360 million.
"It looks like a lot, but it's misleading," Higgins said.
The district says that's because even when only dealing with the general fund, there are still several millions of dollars that the school board can't consider when trying to cut the budget.
Those expenditures include things like federally-mandated special education funding, health insurance costs, utility and fuel costs and retirement plans.
And that's not all.