Dec. 20, 2005 A first-class postage stamp will cost two cents more than it did in 2005.
Postal officials delivered news of the rate hike during a Tuesday afternoon presentation by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs, and the Postal Service, which was held at Gertrude's Restaurant on St. Croix. Effective Jan. 8., a first-class stamp will cost 39 cents.
According to postal officials, classifications have not changed, so the first-class stamp is still good for anything that weighs an ounce or less. An additional ounce will cost 24 cents more.
U.S. Postal Service official Martin Caballero said the 2006 rate hike for postal services averages 5.4 percent across the board.
Specific rate hikes, however, vary: The hike for periodicals (newspapers and magazines) is only 2.3 percent, while the flat-rate box, which is popular for mailing Christmas gifts, will increase from $7.70 to $8.10, a 5.2 percent hike.
Caballero said the usual postal hike takes from 18 months to two years to put into effect. This rate hike, he said, completed the process in fewer than 10 months because of a federal mandate for the postal service to come up with more money.
During the presentation, postal employees had several questions about the mailing of cigarettes to the states. Mierella Couto, assistant port director for the post office in Puerto Rico, said five cartons was the limit for individuals. She said those cigarettes had to be designated as a gift and could not be labeled as "For Export Only" or "Not for Resale." As for potential abuses of this regulation, she said, "Postal employees know their customers. They have to see when red flags go up."
The good news from the postal and customs officials was that packages being sent between Caribbean islands were no longer being sent to Miami for processing. Couto said that the volume at Miami had just become too much to handle. She said the postal processing service in Puerto Rico began handling those packages in April, and packages that once were taking three weeks to deliver were being delivered in half the time.
Attendees at Tuesday's conference also learned that the U.S. Virgin Islands gets another break from the U.S. Post Office when it comes to mailing items valued at $2,000. In other territories and countries, a licensed customs broker is required to fill out the necessary paper work. However, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you can do it yourself.
This may be more of a benefit to the cruise passenger who has bought jewelry or another high-priced item and is mailing it home. The average V.I. resident is probably dealing more with the annoying customs form he or she has to fill out when sending anything besides the smallest item to the United States.
Sabrina Hodge, an import specialist with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that customs form dates back to 1917 when the United States purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark. She said part of the deal was that the Virgin Islands would observe customs rules as if it was still a Danish possession.
For information about the status or requirement of international mailings call (787) 253-7810.
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