ANCHORAGE -

School districts across the state are working together to figure out different ways to balance their budgets.

For 41 years, the Alaska Association of School Business Officials have come together to figure out the best ways to use money in their districts.

But with budget shortfalls and potential cuts looming, the common challenges faced by Alaska schools have prompted leaders to focus on how to minimize negative impacts.

"Everyone has a different skill set so there is a lot you can pick up," said Luke Fulp, an assistant superintendent for the Mat-Su Borough School District. 

A tall order when you see that even though district revenue is not increasing, what it takes to educate students is.

"We have health insurance cost drivers, increases to salaries, and other mandatory benefits and then utilities and energy money," Fulp said. 

The biggest challenge is the base student allocation, a formula that gives local school districts state money for each student enrolled.

For several years, the dollar amount has not increased even to keep up with inflation.

Gov. Sean Parnell has opposed an increase of the formula, instead opting to boost funding for demonstrated needs like pupil transportation and energy costs.

Critics describe that as "flat-funding" of education.

"The amount of budget that goes into salaries and benefits is such a huge part of the budget for our school districts that funding directly impacts how many teachers we can have in a classroom," said Laurie Olson, finance director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. 

Rural and urban districts are comparing what works as cuts are needed to balance a budget. 

"We talk about the laws that happen and the changes to foundation formula and the possibilities of working with the legislature," said Olson, "and working with each other so that we can make it the best for the students that we can."