By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
Postmaster General Megan Brennan and postal-union officials agree that the latest financial news from L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C., bodes well for the deficit-ridden United States Postal Service.
When she met with reporters Nov. 13, the postmaster general opened her review of the Postal Service’s fiscal 2015 financial results, saying she was delighted that the Postal Service had managed to show it could have achieved controllable income of more than $1 billion for two years in a row, and had managed to grow overall revenues for three years in a row.
The term “controllable income” reflects how much money the Postal Service managed to make once some large congressionally mandated costs are not included on the USPS ledger sheets.
It’s a quick way, postal officials say, to measure how effectively postal management is handling the agency’s operating costs.
If those congressionally directed items are included, the Postal Service said its net loss for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 was $5.1 billion, compared to a $5.5 billion loss in fiscal 2014.
Brennan and National Association of Letter Carriers President Frederic Rolando agreed, nonetheless, that the $1.2 billion income the USPS recorded as controllable income was proof that the agency is doing some things right.
The figure may have dipped from the $1.4 billion in controllable income reported in 2014, but revenues also grew to $68.9 billion from $67.8 billion in fiscal 2014.
What was probably the most disconcerting news was that single-piece first-class letters dropped 5.5 percent during fiscal 2015, reflecting the continuing decline of the most profitable segment of the mail.
Advertising, or standard mail, also fell for the year, dropping 0.3 percent.
Shipping and packages grew at 14.1 percent, a previously reported trend that, according to Brennan, shows the USPS is continuing to cash in on the growth of e-commerce from the Internet.
“Moreover,” said the NALC’s Rolando in a statement, “this impressive performance is no fluke.”
He attributed the good number to two factors, saying “an improving economy is helping stabilize letter revenue, and internet-driven online shopping is sending package revenues skyrocketing.”
Both Brennan and Postal Service chief financial officer Joseph Corbett expressed concerns about the clouds on the agency’s horizon.
Corbett mentioned that an emergency surcharge allowed on postal rates is set to expire during April.
Replacing those funds will be part of what USPS officials hope Congress will do to help resolve its long-term debt issues.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who had been among the few lawmakers championing the USPS in Congress, expressed delight at some of the latest numbers.
“This welcome news just isn’t enough to get the Postal Service out of the red,” he said in a statement.
“The only way” to resolve the Postal Services’s financial issues is to enact “comprehensive postal reform legislation,” he said.