- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Postal Service expects to end this fiscal year $4.2 billion in the black, allowing it to pay down a substantial amount of debt, the agency said yesterday.

Chief Financial Officer Richard Strasser said the financial plan is to reduce debt by $3.8 billion this year to $7.3 billion.

In addition, the agency expects a $2.1 billion net income for the 2004 fiscal year, which begins in October, allowing further reduction in debt, Mr. Strasser told the agency’s Board of Governors.

Mr. Strasser said the post office expects to finish this fiscal year with revenue of $68.9 billion, $1.5 billion less than planned, and spending of $64.7 billion, $1.8 billion less than expected.

Overall mail volume decreased to 202 billion pieces and the mix has changed with a drop in first-class mail, Mr. Strasser said. He forecast a continued increase in advertising mail, noting next year’s national elections are expected to provide a boost.

At the same time the post office is delivering to an added 1.8 million homes, businesses and postal boxes annually, rising to total 143 million in 2004.

In addition to last year’s rate increase, Mr. Strasser noted that the agency has increased automation and cut staff to save money. From 1999 through 2004, he noted, the agency will have cut 74,000 full-time and about 10,000 part-time workers, all through attrition.

Looking ahead, Mr. Strasser said the post office will be seeking a special $779 million federal appropriation in fiscal 2005 for costs associated with preventing the spread of another bioterrorism attack through the mail.

The anthrax-by-mail attack two years ago killed five persons and sickened several others, forcing hundreds of postal workers to undergo antibiotic treatment.

The agency is testing an anthrax-detection system and installing improved ventilation systems in offices to detect any similar new attack and stop its spread.

While the board voted to seek the appropriation, Postmaster General John Potter said the agency is going ahead with the work and will use its own funds, if needed, because of the need to protect its staff and the public.

The post office has not received federal tax subsidies for its operations since 1983, although it does receive federal funds to cover free mail for the blind, the cost of absentee voting by Americans living overseas and partial subsidies for discounted postage for charities.

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