We’re now digging for a little extra change during our visits to the post office.
The price of a first-class stamp, effective last Monday, climbed to 44 cents. It’s the third straight year rates have gone up in May under a new system that allows annual increases as long as they don’t exceed the rate of inflation for the year before.
Other changes also took effect this week:
• The postcard stamp increased 1 cent to 28 cents.
• The first ounce of a large envelope increased 5 cents to 88 cents.
• The first ounce of a parcel increased 5 cents to $1.22.
• New international postcard and letter prices are, for one ounce, 75 cents to Canada; 79 cents to Mexico; and 98 cents elsewhere.
Most Postal Service shipping services prices were adjusted in January and did not change.
These rate increases alone, though, will not solve the financial problems plaguing the U.S. Postal Service.
It ended the second quarter (Jan. 1-March 31) with a net loss of $1.9 billion. USPS officials blamed the economic recession and longer-term financial pressures, such as the diversion of letter mail to the Internet, that continued to reduce mail volume and revenue. The Postal Service, officials predict, will likely face a cash shortfall of over $1.5 billion at the end of the fiscal year.
The Postal Service, according to its Wed site, has incurred net losses from operations in 10 of the last 11 quarters. The year-to-date net loss is $2.3 billion, compared to a loss in the same period last year of $35 million. A significant portion of the losses over this period can be attributed to an unprecedented decline in mail volume. In the second quarter, mail volume totaled 43.8 billion pieces, down 7.5 billion pieces, or 14.7 percent, compared to a year ago.
“The economic recession has been tough on the mailing industry, and we have seen an unprecedented decline in mail volumes and revenue that continued to accelerate during the second quarter,” said Postmaster General John Potter. “We are aggressively realigning our costs to match the lower mail volumes, while also maintaining the high level of service and reliability our customers expect. We are also taking a number of steps to grow revenue.”
The Postal Service, which does not get a taxpayer subsidy for its operations, also lost $2.8 billion last year.
This weeks’s rate increases are unlikely to cover the ongoing losses, and the possibility remains that the post office could run out of money before the end of the fiscal year. The post office could have cited extraordinary circumstances and asked the independent Postal Regulatory Commission for larger increases, but officials worried that would only result in a greater decline in mail volume and worse losses.
The USPS, like other businesses, must adapt its operations to changing times to survive.
Potter has asked Congress for permission to reduce mail delivery to five days a week. The agency, The Associated Press reported, is offering early retirement to workers, consolidating excess capacity in mail-processing and transportation networks, realigning carrier routes, halting construction of new postal facilities, freezing officer and executive salaries at 2008 pay levels, and reducing travel budgets.
Potter has also urged congressional changes in how the post office prepays for retiree health care, to cut its annual costs by $2 billion.
The Postal Service has also recently developed incentive programs to increase mail volume, including advertising mail and Priority Mail.
“We are aggressively reducing work hours and other costs to limit losses, preserve cash and improve productivity,” said Joseph Corbett, chief financial officer and executive vice president.
Initiatives designed to match work hours to reduced volume have resulted in a work-hour decline of 58 million hours – the equivalent of a reduction of 33,000 full-time employees – in the first half of fiscal year 2009, despite an increase in the number of delivery points by 1.1 million from the same period last year. The work-hour reduction is on pace to meet the goal of reducing work hours by more than 100 million for the entire year, the equivalent of 57,000 full-time employees.
The Postal Service, despite recent decreases, still is responsible for a tremendous volume of work. Even for the most simple correspondence, everyone does not have access to the Internet or may not prefer using it.
The ability to send a letter to anywhere in the country for 44 cents, when you think about it, remains quite a bargain.
We trust USPS officials will be diligent in matching their services and personnel to today’s market to ensure the long-term financial viability of the postal system.
We’re now digging for a little extra change during our visits to the post office.
Some patience will be helpful as new school calendar is set
The forecast is calling for another few inches of snow this evening. We all know what that could mean — a messy morning commute, changes in plans, rescheduling and that call that will inevitably come. School will be cancelled.
‘Pothole blitz’ badly needed service coming in West Virginia
Hopefully, the heavy snow and extremely cold weather of January, February and early March are in the past.
Remnants of the harsh winter, though, remain. They’re faced each day by the state’s drivers.
Potholes have West Virginia’s roads in their worst condition in years, and the damaging freeze-thaw cycle is not over.
‘The issues are complicated’ with e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes have been around for about seven years.
But you’d be shocked at how long the idea for the the tobacco-less product has been around.
“A primitive, battery-operated ‘smokeless non-tobacco cigarette’ was patented as early as 1963 and described in Popular Mechanics in 1965,” Megan McArdle wrote for Business Week last monty.
Coal industry can’t afford to give this administration and EPA more ammunition
Coal already has a bad name in Washington, D.C.
The whole industry got another black eye this week when Alpha Natural Resources Inc., one of the country’s largest coal producers, agreed to pay a $27.5 million fine and invest $200 million to reduce illegal water pollution in five states, including West Virginia.
Being observant, reporting suspicions can make difference for hurting children
If a child is hurting, we wouldn’t hesitate to help.
Or would we?
In a five-year span, 22,830 children were victims of some type of neglect or abuse in West Virginia. That’s an overwhelming number to think about.
Gee makes major impact and earns another term as WVU president
Let’s imagine that a graduate from West Virginia University in the early 1980s, when E. Gordon Gee was president, came back to get an extra degree now and couldn’t believe that E. Gordon Gee is “still” the president of WVU.
Effort to encourage purchase of goods produced in U.S. deserves support
The concept of encouraging the purchase of American-made products is certainly not new.
On the federal level, the Buy American Act was passed in 1933 by Congress and signed by President Herbert Hoover. It required the United States government to prefer U.S.-made products in its purchases.
‘Stop Meth, Not Meds’ backed by readers
In West Virginia, there is something referred to as “stop-sale technology” that prevents a person from going to more than one pharmacy to purchase over-the-counter medication that contains the active ingredient pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant.
It’s not an issue of stuffy noses that lawmakers were worried about when they created the system.
Even small steps play part in critical mission to reduce childhood obesity
Just two years ago, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, meaning they had excess body weight based on their height.
It’s a troubling statistic, and one that health officials have worked diligently to reverse.
Cutting-edge heart procedure at Mon General is saving lives
“I used to think I wouldn’t live to be 50. Well, I made it to 50 and then some,” Pearl Walls said.
Walls is likely alive today and able to tell her story to the Times West Virginian because of a cutting-edge procedure performed at Monongalia General Hospital — a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), which was only approved for use by the FDA in 2011.
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