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Post Office seeks stamp price hike

The cost of postage could soon be on the rise, again.

Tuesday, Postal officials announced a broad series of proposed price increases – averaging about 5 percent – and covering first class, advertising mail, periodicals, packages and other services.

The post office seeks to increase the price of a stamp by 2 cents to 46 cents. The request now goes to the independent Postal Rate Commission which has 90 days to respond.

The current 44-cent first-class rate took effect May 11, 2009.

The post office has been battered by substantial losses and dwindling mail volume and is teetering on the bring of a financial crisis.

The agency lost $3.8 billion last fiscal year despite cutting 40,000 full-time positions and making other reductions. It has continued to face significant losses this year.

Demopolis Postmaster Buddy Pickel said his office has seen a sharp decrease in mail volume and cites the sluggish economy as a key contributor.

“Any time the economy slows, one of the first things people cut back on is their advertising,” he said, “and a lot of our volume is mailed advertisements.”

The increasingly popular on-line billing options have also taken mail from carrier’s bags.

“There’s a lot of people who may not get a bill mailed to their house any more,” he said. “On line billing and bill pay actually hits us twice. They don’t mail the bill and the customer doesn’t mail the payment.”

Under the law, the post office is limited to increases of no more than the rate of inflation — 0.9 percent for the year ended in May.

However, the agency is allowed to seek a larger increase in unusual circumstances. Postmaster General John Potter said in March he planned to take that step, facing a multi-billion dollar loss.