“I’ve had that ever since, even when I went to Vietnam and came back,” said Vaughn, holding three envelopes outside the post office. Vaughn said even though he has to go to the post office three or four times a month to send and receive mail – a 10-mile trip from his county home to downtown Anniston – a 6 percent increase in postage stamps that will take effect Jan. 26 doesn’t concern him.
“I pay $30 every six months for the mail box, plus gas to get here,” said Vaughn, who would have only had to pay 4 cents for a stamp when he first started going to his post office box in 1962. “What do I care about another couple of cents?”
Declining revenue of almost $5 billion in the fiscal year 2013 has led the U.S. Postal Service to increase postage stamp prices from 46 cents to 49 cents, as well as increase all first-class mail by 6 percent, including magazines and advertising mail. The Postal Regulation Committee, which oversees the U.S. Postal Service, voted for the increase on Tuesday, but said the price hike is only temporary – approximately two years – to make up $1.8 billion in lost revenue from the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009.
And while individual customers like Vaughn might not care about paying a few extra pennies, it could have a big impact on companies and nonprofit groups that rely on reaching customers through the mailbox.
“It will drive more customers away from using the Postal Service and will have ripple effects through our economy – hurting consumers, forcing layoffs, and impacting business,” said Mary Berner, president of the Association of Magazine Media in a press release.
Attempts Thursday to reach Debbie Fetterly, a communications program specialist with the U.S. Postal Service in Alabama, were unsuccessful.
But local agencies in Calhoun County on Thursday didn’t seem alarmed by the January increase. Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis said while his city does a monthly bulk sending of water bills, the city’s budget for postage generally anticipates a slight increase in mailing costs. Calhoun County Assistant Administrator Melissia Wood said she didn’t know the budget for the year for postage for the county, but did not anticipate the line item would need to change to accommodate the new rates.
Even organizations such as churches and nonprofit groups that have often relied on sending newsletters to get their message out seem to have joined many residents and postal customers making the switch to electronic communication.
“We send out all our church letters through email,” said Dorothy Hayes, the administrator of the First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, who noted the church made the switch in 2012. “You save on printing and postage that way.”
For companies that still use the mail to reach customers, like magazines and some weekly newspapers, the rising cost of postage might be transferred to those customers. Dennis Dunn, circulation director for Consolidated Publishing, which publishes The Anniston Star, said thousands of copies of The Jacksonville News, The Cleburne News and The Piedmont Journal reach subscribers every week through the mail. The increase in postage will affect subscription rates, he said.
"We didn't transfer the cost the last time postage rates went up," Dunn said. "But we're going to have to this time."
The 6 percent increase in January will represent the biggest hike in postage stamp prices in 11 years.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.