EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 27, 2013

Postal Service says it needs 3-cent stamp price hike

By Douglas Moser and Jill Harmacinski
Staff writers

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The United States Postal Service, with email and online bill paying hollowing its revenue and pension obligations looming, intends to ask for an emergency rate increase of 3 cents for first class stamps.

If approved, the hike would bring the price of a stamp to 49 cents by January. The last increase went into effect in January, raising the rate a penny to 46 cents.

Ask 100 people what they think of the Post Office and you will get 101 opinions. Local residents’ thoughts ran the gambit, though many said they already pay their bills online. Some said they thought holiday cards, which can mount quickly, could be a casualty.

Attorney Alex Cain of North Andover, said he’s anything but thrilled about the stamp price increase. “My costs are high enough as it is,” he said. “I have documents going out everyday so this really adds up.”

John Markuns, coming out of the Post Office on Main Street in North Andover yesterday, disagreed, saying the cost is low for the service it provides. “It’s the biggest bargain in town,” he said. “You can rely on them getting something where you want it for half a buck in a couple days. You can’t get anything for a half a buck.”

Several people said the Postal Service’s financial woes mean changes should be on the horizon.

Gale Miele said the USPS should cut costs by eliminating delivery on Saturday, a service whose time has passed. “They need to cut something because what they’re doing now isn’t working,” she said.

Mike Causbie said he was not surprised at the increase. “Something is going to have to be done,” he said. “This can’t continue forever.”

The post office expects to lose $6 billion this year and is seeking help from Congress to fix its finances.

A bipartisan bill that would substantially change the USPS is stalled in the Senate. That bill would end delivery service on Saturdays, phase out door-to-door delivery, but many lawmakers, along with postal worker unions, have resisted such changes, saying they would inconvenience customers. It also would change how USPS calculates its retirement benefits and allow it to compete with private shippers.

As part of the rate increase request, the cost for each additional ounce of first-class mail would increase a penny to 21 cents while the price of mailing a postcard would rise by a cent, to 34 cents. The cost to mail a letter to an international destination would jump 5 cents to $1.15.

The Postal Service also said it would request price increases totaling 5.9 percent for bulk mail, periodicals and package service rates, according to a filing to be made with the commission Thursday.

Many consumers won’t feel the increase immediately. Forever stamps bought before an increase still would cover first-class postage. The price of new forever stamps would rise with the higher rate, if approved.

Mickey Barnett, chairman of the postal Board of Governors said the increase would generate $2 billion annually for his agency.

The Postal Service is an independent agency that receives no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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