Postage rates ready to rise

January 05, 2006|By ANDREW SCHOTZ


Demand is rising for Navajo jewelry ? on 2-cent stamps.

On Sunday, the United States Postal Service is raising the price of first-class stamps from 37 cents to 39 cents, which means plenty of requests for extra postage.

The Postal Service is offering a stamp of a Navajo silver-and-turquoise necklace as one way to make up the 2-cent difference.

In November, the U.S. Postal Service's Board of Governors approved a 5.4 percent increase to most rates and fees.

This will be the 12th time the price of a first-class stamp has gone up in 31 years. The last time was 2002.


The Postal Service said the latest increase was necessary to meet a federal mandate that it have a $3.1 billion escrow account.

The Postal Service had been greatly overpaying into its retirement system, spokesman Jim Quirk in Washington, D.C., said.

In a statement posted at the Web site of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Chairwoman Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, said, "The financial and operational problems confronting the Postal Service are serious indeed."

The Postal Service had "enormous" long-term liabilities of at least $60 billion, she said.

The situation improved, she said, when the Office of Personnel Management discovered the retirement overpayments and Congress passed a bill fixing it, which delayed a rate increase.

Quirk said the Postal Service's deficit had been as high as $11.3 billion.

Money no longer need for the retirement system was used to pay down debt and was reinvested into new technology, such as 2,500 automated postal centers in 2005, Quirk said.

After reducing its work force from 800,000 to 700,000, the Postal Service found itself with the same number of employees it had in 1985, but it was delivering 50 percent more mail, he said.

As a semi-independent government agency, the Postal Service may raise rates only enough to break even, he said.

Post offices started selling 39-cent stamps with an American flag and the Statue of Liberty on Dec. 8. The stamps do not list a denomination, continuing the tradition for postage issued immediately after rates go up.

A Sunday start is also the norm for new rates, said Lynn Newbraugh, a secretary for the postmaster in Martinsburg, W.Va. Almost every post office in the country is closed Sundays, which gives people a day to adjust.

Newbraugh said customers surely will have questions.

"Any change, no matter what the change ? sociologically, psychologically, change is always difficult," he said.

Newbraugh said a 1-ounce letter mailed before Sunday, with a 37-cent stamp, will be delivered as usual.

One mailed after Sunday with a 37-cent stamp will be delivered, too, but with postage due.

If the recipient doesn't pay the postage due, the letter will be returned to the sender to pay.

Newbraugh noted that if someone is trying to pay a bill and it's returned for postage due, the envelope won't bear a postmark from the day it was mailed.

A 39-cent stamp covers only the first ounce that a letter weighs. Postage for each additional ounce is going up from 23 cents to 24 cents.

Other increases include:

  • postcards (from 23 cents o 24 cents)

  • priority mail of up to one pound (from $3.85 to $4.05)

  • express mail up to a half-pound (from $13.65 to $14.40)

  • money orders up to $500 (from 90 cents to 95 cents).

International rates, which have not changed since 2001, are going up around 5.4 percent at the same time, the Postal Service said.

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