Rate increase based on post office's cost of business

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Beginning today, the cost of mailing a letter will be a little higher, as a new postal rate increase takes effect nationwide.

Starting today, the cost of a first-class stamp will increased to 41 cents from the previous rate of 39 cents.

According to a press release from the United States Postal Service, the rate increase is necessary because the costs of doing business - for things like fuel, transportation, utilities, and health care benefits - have continued to increase. Without an increase to keep up with rising costs, the postal service faces significant losses.

Rhonda De La Paz, the postmaster for the Alice branch, said that with 22 carriers in the local office, the cost of delivering the mail just in Alice had increased significantly.

"We pay the same gas prices everybody pays," De La Paz said. "A lot of it has to do with transportation costs."

Although the Postal Service increased prices as recently as January 2006, officials said the new rate change is necessary.

According to information provided by the Postal Service, the Jan. 8, 2006 across-the-board price increase was to meet an escrow payment mandated by Public Law (PL) 108-18. This is the first time since January 2001 that the service has restructured their prices, officials said.

As part of its Strategic Transformation Plan, the service has made extensive changes to its operations and increased its efficiency.

In order to assist customers with the rate change, the U.S. Postal Service is offering what it calls a "Forever Stamp."

The Forever Stamp is intended to reduce the inconvenience that consumers experience with having to acquire new-rate postage or "make-up" stamps (1-cent and 2-cent stamps) prior to implementation of new prices. The Forever Stamp will initially be sold at the new First-Class Mail single-piece 1-ounce letter rate - 41 cents. The value of the Forever Stamp will always be the First-Class Mail single-piece 1-ounce letter rate that is in effect on the day of use (mailing), unaffected by any subsequent changes in the future.

Additional postage will need to be affixed to letters weighing in excess of 1 ounce, letters subject to the nonmachinable surcharge, or mailpieces subject to another rate of postage, such as large envelopes or packages.

The Forever Stamp will be available in booklets of 20 for $8.20. It will also be available today from our Automated Postal Centers (APCs) and at select automated teller machines (ATMs) in sheetlets of 18 for $7.38.

De La Paz said the Alice branch has been selling the Forever Stamps since April, and is ready for the rate change.

"We're well stocked with stamps for our local customers," De La Paz said.