*USPS Board Sets New Rate Date: Jan. 10

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At a much-anticipated U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors' meeting in Washington on June 30, chairman Sam Winters announced that the new postal rates will go into effect Jan. 10. The board's unanimous decision extends a period of rate stability for four years.

Winters noted that while the board considered increasing the rates this year, several factors swayed them to go with the 1999 date.

"This was done after careful consideration of customer and congressional input, management's financial forecasts and what we believe to be in the best interest of our customers and the postal service," he said.

Insiders said members of the House of Representatives -- who had voted 393-12 to urge the governors to deny the rate increase entirely -- may have contributed to the decision.

The Direct Marketing Association congratulated the board for its decision, despite the fact that the USPS posted a $1.4 billion surplus for its most recent accounting period.

"The governors acted responsibly. By avoiding implementation of rate adjustments this year and waiting until after the holiday '98 mailing season, the governors have assured that the U.S. economy will not be disrupted by an untimely hike," Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the DMA, said in a prepared statement.

Mail Advertising Service Association, Alexandria, VA, mirrored the DMA's views. "We are delighted that good management and a favorable business climate have given the postal service flexibility over the implementation of new rates," said MASA president David Weaver.

The board accepted the Postal Rate Commission's recommendation on the new rates with a few exceptions. Rates will increase 2.9 percent across the board and 1.2 percent on average for Standard-A mailers. Some of the most important increases: Price of a First-Class letter increases one penny, to 33 cents; 1.2 percent average increases for Standard-A regular mail; and 3.1 percent increases for First-Class bulk mailers who mail 1-ounce bills.

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