By: Debra Gersh Hernandez Second-class in-county rate may go up more than 30%; many weekly and community newspapers could feel the pinch sp.
THE COST OF a first-class stamp may be going up only a few cents, but the second-class in-county rate used by many newspapers is on the board for a hike of over 30%. The U.S. Postal Service board of governors recommended a 10.3% rate increase in most postal categories, but along the line, the figures for in-county mailers showed that they would be liable for a significantly bigger hit. "Something must be wrong with the data. It can't go up that much," remarked Robert Brinkmann, Newspaper Association of America vice president/state, postal and regulatory affairs. The fact that the number is so high was a surprise, he said, adding, "Nobody had any idea." Brinkmann suggested that perhaps the Postal Service data was skewed by too small a sampling base. "It could be based on faulty U.S. Postal Service figures," he said, referring to the disproportionate increase. Because of that possibility, Brink-mann said, there is a "reasonable chance that this rate increase won't see the light of day, but you never know." The National Newspaper Association said it's going to do its best to make sure that the hike does not go through. NNA members would be particularly hard-hit because the second-class in-county rate is used by many weekly and community newspaper publishers. "This so-called 10.3% across-the-board rate increase amounts to a 36% increase for community newspapers who rely on the in-county rates to deliver their newspapers, compared to a 9.8% increase for third-class saturation direct mailers," said NNA chairman Sam Griffin Jr., publisher of the Bainbridge, Ga., Post-Searchlight. "That's not fair, and there's no way we could accept that. We'll have to challenge it before the Postal Rate Commission, and we'll have to fight it with everything we've got," he added in a statement. The Mailers Council, a coalition of businesses and trade associations, was pleased with the announcement and earlier had said it would support a 10.3% increase (E&P, Feb. 19, p. 29). "No one in the mailing community wants to increase the price of stamps," Mailers Council managing director Arthur Sackler said. "But since an increase is inevitable because of the serious financial and competitive challenges facing the Postal Service, we believe that this approach is fair and balanced." Hearst Corp., a member of the council, praised the board of governors' action and noted that the increase would "be within the limits of the general cost of living experienced since the last postal increase in 1991." The board's recommendation now goes to the Postal Rate Commission for further proceedings, which could last as long as 10 months.