Hite: Layoffs if no cigarette tax by Aug. 15

Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia William Hite scratches his head while arriving to a public meeting to adopt a operating budget for 2014/2015 at the Philadelphia School District Building on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Pa. Senate's action on Tuesday delays a cigarette tax that would raise millions for Philly schools. ( YONG KIM / Staff Photographer )

Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said Wednesday that if the state legislature does not pass the cigarette tax by Aug. 15, he would have to begin laying off employees and consider not opening school on time.

"There's a lot of uncertainty around what our next move is," Hite told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

The state Senate passed an amended cigarette tax bill this week, but the legislation still requires House approval. The House is out on summer recess and won't return until a special session called for August 4. Even then, passage is not assured.

Something, Hite said, has to give.

"I have no intentions of putting 40 children in a classroom, reducing services beyond where they've been reduced," the superintendent said. "If we're thinking about anything, it should be thinking about how to increase guidance services, instructional materials, and health services."

The longer the legislature waits, the more Philadelphia kids suffer, Hite said.

"We're losing money the longer it's delayed," he said.

That politics have held up what looked like a sure thing for the cash-strapped district is "extremely frustrating," Hite said.