(T-G Photo by Jason Reynolds)
The U.S. Postal Service on Sunday raised the price of first-class stamps by one penny to 46 cents. That works out to $9.20 for a book of 20 stamps. The previous rate hike was a one-cent increase in January 2011.
"We're in the midst of a financial crisis," said spokesman David Walton. "That's one way for us to increase our revenue. We can only adjust stamp prices at an amount equal to or less than the rate of inflation."
Postcard stamps increased by one cent to 33 cents.
The Postal Service is hoping that those extra pennies will help reduce its $15.9 billion loss reported for the 2012 fiscal year, he said. The new rates are expected to generate $964 million in the 2013 fiscal year, he said. The Postal Service's fiscal issues include mandatory payments to pre-fund health benefits, Walton said.
Postal officials have considered reducing the hours of operation for the Unionville Post Office as well as many other rural post offices as one cost-cutting measure.
The Times-Gazette asked for people's reactions. Karen Halliday replied, "They have to make money like everyone else. It is the same like every other job."
"Americans have a divided mind when it comes to the U.S. Postal Service," Ted W. Daniel said.
"On the one hand, we seem to appreciate the service they provide, and loudly complain if there is a suggestion that a post office will be closed, or the price go up. On the other hand, the Postal Service has long been the whipping boy for anti-government sentiment. Nowhere is this split mind more apparent than in discussions about the price of stamps."
Daniel points out that the Postal Service is required by law to serve every person in the United States, no matter how remote, while charging the same rate.
"I think it is time for Americans to decide whether we still value the Postal Service as a public agency. If we do, we need to allow them to operate on terms that work," he said. "If not, we should allow them to privatize. We can't have it both ways."
On Sunday, the Postal Service also began offering a first-class global Forever Stamp. The new stamp allows customers to mail letters anywhere in the world for $1.10, and is a complement to the popular Forever Stamp for domestic use. A customer who buys a Forever Stamp for the current price can always use it, even after rates increase.
Prices for all products (mailing and shipping services) increased by 4 percent, according to a Postal Service press release, but prices for mailing services, such as regular letters and advertising matter, increased by 2.6 percent.