The Ottumwa Courier

January 2, 2014

Postal Service rate increase to begin Jan. 26

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — In another attempt to offset a downward fiscal spiral, the United States Postal Service will be raising several of its rates in this month.

Effective Jan. 26, 2014, the increases range between 1 and 3 cents per item. The Postal Service forecasts the increases will generate $2 billion in incremental annual revenue after a net loss of $5 billion in the 2013 fiscal year.

The increases will include:

Letters (1 oz.) — 3-cent increase to 49 cents

Letters additional ounces — 1-cent increase to 21 cents

Letters to all international destinations (1 oz.) — $1.15

Postcards — 1-cent increase to 34 cents

The Governors of the Postal Service voted Sept. 24, 2013, to seek price increases above the typical annual increases associated with changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). However, stamp prices have stayed consistent with the average annual rate of inflation of 4.2 percent since the Postal Service was formed in 1971, its website says.

The Postal Service is still looking to Congress to make some serious changes in how it is able to do daily business, Richard Watkins, corporate communications spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Kansas City, says. Most importantly, that means giving the Postal Service more flexibility in its operations, and this holiday season was a great example.

"It's about getting flexibility from Congress beyond the operations we have control over — Sunday delivery, opening more locations (to help with increased) mail volume during the busy holiday time," he explained. "For years the Postal Service has been looking to Congress to manage things in a responsible way. No tax dollars are being used, and they haven't been in more than 30 years. The Postal Service has only been able to take a certain number of steps, and it's only able to cut and consolidate so much."

While the Postal Service is still losing $25 million each day, blamed mostly on a dramatic decrease in First Class mail, efforts to balance the bottom line are being accelerated. It has cut more than $15 billion in spending over past seven years and cut 200,000 career positions nationwide through attrition. Combine this with the consolidating process and shorter retail hours in rural areas, and officials say they're trying to be as cost-efficient as possible before transferring increases on to postal customers.

"The Postal Service takes any price increase seriously because it affects the customers' bottom line," Watkins said. "It's about doing what is reasonable to manage a nationwide service — and that's not not just the number of customers but the geographic area the Postal Service covers."

— To see reporter Laura Carrell's Twitter feed, go to @CourierLauraC