More postal rate hikes on way for Summit County | ParkRecord.com

More postal rate hikes on way for Summit County

Greg Marshall, Of the Record

Some Summit County residents are getting used to paying more at the pump. Now, they will have to get used to paying more at the post office.

Postage stamp price increases may become perennial practice for U.S. Postal Service.

"Once a year, around this time, we’ll usually have a price increase," said spokesman Ron Hubrich.

Rate hikes will usually be one cent, he said.

The Postal Service is raising the cost of a first-class stamp for the third year in a row to 42 cents this coming Monday, May 12. The one-cent increase will help the Postal Service pay down addition gasoline and operational costs and compete with the private sector.

Consumers can also expect increases in the cost of Express and Priority mail.

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Hubrich said that’s, in part, because of the Postal Service’s estimated $1 billion deficit for fiscal year 2008, which ends in September.

"Our business plan has always been to break even," he said. "Gas prices and the economic downturn are hurting our bottom line just like everyone else. We’re not immune."

The Postal Service Act of 2006 allows the USPS to raise rates once a year at a rate no greater than inflation. Hubrich said the new system will make rate increases more predictable, and more palatable, for consumers.

The price of a first-class postage stamp has increased nine cents since 1999 and at irregular intervals. Now, Hubrich said, consumers can plan for a rate increase every April or May for several years.

"Price changes used to take a year and a half to two years," Hubrich said. "We’ve streamlined the process to give the post office some leeway."

Hubrich said the Postal Service is not allowed to charge additional fees for the price of delivery because of fuel. That’s why consistent rate changes are important.

Charging more for stamps may help the post office’s bottom line, but some Summit County postmasters say the transition can be rough on postal workers and customers.

One of the tools for a smooth transition is the Forever Stamp, which is good for one-ounce first class letters anytime without additional postage. "If you buy it now for 41 cents, it will work as first class mail forever," said Park City postmaster Ronda Donica, who has been selling Forever Stamps by the thousand.

The stamp, which pictures the Liberty Bell, has been sold 30 million times a day since they were first offered in April 2007, after the rate hike. "It was made for convenience," Hubrich said, "so people don’t have to buy penny stamps."

Coalville Postmaster Darlene Winterer knows the woes of one-and two-cent add on postage. She sold 16,000 penny stamps shortly after the 2007 postage increase to help confused customers label their letters correctly. "Every time the postage goes up, there’s a run on the bank," she said. "I really like the idea of the Forever Stamp because people don’t have to worry about extra postage It will be a time saver for the customer and post office."

Each postage rate increase causes the number of returned letters to skyrocket, Winterer said.

Consumers can still stock up on the 41 cent Forever stamps until May 11.The stamp increases to 42 cents May 12.

Hubrich encouraged consumers to save money on postage by purchasing USPS services online at usps.com/prices. "Our saying is to get people out of line and online," he said.

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