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January 19, 2006

Postal hike should not have major impact at Pitt

Postal rates in nearly all classifications went up last week, but a Pitt mailing services official says the increases should not have a major impact on University mailing costs.

Gus Tytke, assistant director of University Mailing Services, said, “There is some cost increase, sure. The average rate increase is approximately 5.4 percent across the board. But some of that is offset, for example, by new software we have to pre-sort first class mail, which discounts the rate. I really don’t see the increases as being overly dramatic to the University.”

Mailing Services handles about 24 million pieces of mail annually, down from 28 million pieces five years ago, Tytke said. “The numbers have been going down over the last few years due to an increase in use of faxes and especially e-mail,” as well as the fact that the University increasingly does more of its business, such as e-billing, on-line, he said.

The new postal rates include a jump of 2 cents to 39 cents for the first ounce of first-class mail; each additional ounce now costs 24 cents, an increase of 1 cent. The cost of mailing postcards is up 1 cent to 24 cents. A one-ounce letter to a foreign country went up 4 cents to 84 cents. (One-ounce letters to Canada or Mexico rose by 3 cents to 63 cents.) The new rates went into effect Jan. 8.

Tytke cautioned that there is no quick formula for calculating the cost an individual office may have to bear as a result of the mailing cost increases. “It depends on the volume, the number of pieces, what they weigh, a whole number of things,” Tytke said.

For some types of mail, the postal service sets standards with no leeway — printed matter that goes to students, for example, has to be mailed first class — but in many instances University Mailing Services can save a unit some money by finding the cheapest rates available, he said.

For high-volume mailings, Tytke advises users to mail at the non-profit bulk rate rather than first class. A majority of Pitt’s overall mail volume is sent out non-profit bulk, he said.

The non-profit bulk rate applies to domestic mailings of separately addressed pieces identical in size and weight in quantities of no less than 50 pounds or 200 pieces, with the maximum weight per piece being 15.9 ounces.

“The pre-sorted first class rate is now 35 cents apiece, while non-profit bulk is 14 cents apiece. If your mailing qualifies for non-profit bulk, that’s a big difference. There is a trade-off there because you’re looking at the cost of the piece versus the extra time in transit. So it requires some planning,” he said.

First class mailings typically take three-five business days for delivery once they’re mailed; non-profit bulk mailings average seven-10 business days.

Mailing non-profit bulk also means conforming to postal regulations regarding addressing, metering, labeling, zip code sorting, business reply formatting and using the #511 (Pitt’s designated non-profit permit imprint number) indicia, among other requirements.

University Mailing Services offers guidance to departments on request, Tytke said. “We’ll come to your office, go over your piece, tell you what is needed.”

His unit gets an average of 25 calls a week with requests for advice from University departments and individuals, he said.

University Mailing Services is located at 400 North Lexington Ave., Point Breeze. The phone number is 412/244-7050.

Information, including rate schedules, a mailing user’s guide and mailing tips, also is available at the Mailing Services web site:

According to the U.S. Postal Service, a quasi-independent federal agency that receives no tax money for operations, it delivers more than half of the world’s mail. The postal service ended FY05 with a net income of $1.4 billion, the third consecutive year of operating surpluses.

The postal service was compelled to raise rates — the first increase since 2002 — by federal legislation enacted in 2003 requiring the agency to set aside at least $3.1 billion each year into escrow beginning in 2006.

Without the escrow requirement, postage rates likely would have remained at 2005 levels until 2007, according to the postal service.

—Peter Hart

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