Canceled Cigarette Tax Vote Putting Philly School Funding in Jeopardy

Mayor Michael Nutter says if money doesn't come by Aug. 15 deadline, schools will not open on-time

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Pennsylvania lawmakers will not return to Harrisburg next week to vote on a cigarette tax to fund Philadelphia’s public schools. Officials say no tax will mean layoffs and a possible delay to the start of the school year. NBC10’s George Spencer has details.

    The cancellation of a scheduled vote on the proposed cigarette tax that would help fund Philadelphia schools has put the start of the school year in jeopardy.

    The Pennsylvania House of Representatives had a scheduled session next week to discuss and vote on tax issues including the proposed $2 a pack cigarette tax. But, on Thursday, House leadership canceled the session.

    A memo, obtained by NBC10.com, was sent to House members Thursday telling them not to come back to the state house in Harrisburg, Pa. next week because lawmakers can't agree on the issues.

    "The Leadership team had hoped to use August 4 and 5 to address education funding for Philadelphia and to address some public pension reform. Despite good faith efforts, we do not have consensus on the issues," the memo read.

    School Budget Crisis

    [PHI] School Budget Crisis
    George Spencer say if the School District can not solve the budget crisis, then there will be teacher layoffs.

    After much lobbying, the proposed tax was on track to pass the legislature. However, late additions to the bill prompted lawmakers to drop their support.

    City leaders and school district officials have been counting on $45 million in revenue from the tax to help close a $81 million budget deficit.

    District leaders have warned that layoffs could come for 1,300 teachers and staff, classes would be packed with 40 students with just one teacher and services and programs would be slung.

    Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said if a deal isn't worked out to provide the School District of Philadelphia with the money it needs by an Aug. 15 deadline, then schools will not open on time, according to representative.

    But Gov. Tom Corbett's goal is to have school open on time and avoid additional layoffs, said Jay Pagni, a representative for the state leader.

    Officials have asked Corbett's office to front the money needed. But an advance would not solve the larger issue of school funding, Pagni said.

    He added that the Governor has been working with the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission to address the district's immediate needs.

    Corbett will meet with Pennsylvania's House and Senate leaders next week to discuss the tax and funding crisis.