Published Date Written by David Carkhuff
Postal workers would need to sell more than 5 million 45-cent stamps to cover the cost of the 30 or so top office and administrative staff in the Northern New England District for the U.S. Postal Service.
The payroll of employees earning $80,000 or above exceeds $2.3 million, according to a review of a database of Postal Service jobs in the three-state Northern New England district of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The district office is based in Portland.
Administration such as that in the northern New England region hasn't escaped the notice of legislators. A bill that passed the U.S. Senate this week by a 62-37 vote would requires a plan to close or consolidate administrative offices in the Postal Service network.
"The Inspector General has estimated that such administrative savings could total hundreds of millions of dollars," said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the sponsors of the Senate legislation. It was also sponsored by Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Democrat Thomas Carper of Delaware and Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
The problem, members of Congress say, is that the Postal Service is on a path to insolvency.
Postal Service revenue has declined over $9 billion, or 12 percent, from its peak of $75 billion in fiscal year 2007, according to The Postal Reform Act of 2011, a bill put forward by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In fiscal year 2011, the Postal Service estimated its loss to be approximately $10 billion, including a statutorily required and controversial retiree health care prefunding payment.
The U.S. House of Representatives, which is on recess until Tuesday, May 8, is expected to work up its own legislation to reform the Postal Service when members return. The clock is ticking, because an agency moratorium on postal facility closures ends May 15.
So far, most of the focus with closure discussions has been on individual post offices, such as Portland's Station A, which remains on a cut list; and on processing facilities, such as Maine's Hampden and Scarborough plants, which are proposed for consolidation, which would close the Hampden facility and centralize operations in Scarborough.
But administrative costs aren't escaping the notice of Congress.
Issa's bill would establish a commission to recommend closures and consolidations of postal facilities in general.
Collins' Senate bill requires the Postal Service to develop a strategic plan for how to consolidate area and district offices and create related efficiencies, with updates to the plan every five years, according to information from Collins' office.
DataUniverse lists U.S. Postal Service positions and salaries for 2012 and includes 29 employees earning in excess of $80,000 apiece at the Northern New England District. These positions include that of Deborah Essler, district manager, who makes $161,002, according to the database. Other jobs range from human resources to post office manager positions.
The district encompasses 8,700 employees with $596 million in employee salaries and benefits, a payroll "which support local economies," noted Thomas Rizzo, district communications coordinator.
"With the 25 percent decline in mail volume nationally since 2006, the Postal Service has been undertaking many cost-cutting initiatives," Rizzo told The Daily Sun. "We have achieved cost reductions totaling $12 billion over the last four fiscal years, results that any company would be proud to claim. Locally, we have played our part, and more. The Portland Administrative Office served the former Maine District until 2009. When the New Hampshire/Vermont Postal District closed and was consolidated into the Portland facility, we shed some 70 or so management positions. Currently, 53 percent of the former staffing levels of the two former districts manage all three states from Portland."
The district, with $764 million in annual revenue, is responsible for 938 post offices and more than 950 facilities, Rizzo noted. It serves a population of 3.2 million people in a territory of 54,000 square miles, he said.
"As a result of the work done here in Portland, our postal district continues to be rank at the top of the country in such important indicators as employee safety and shortest wait-time-in-line at our retail counters. Our frontline employees deserve most of the credit, but it would be unfair to minimize the contribution of the managers who analyze, initiate, monitor and adjust programs which they set in motion," Rizzo said.
Since the 2009 consolidation, Rizzo said district employee performance, "even with higher workloads as in much of the private sector, has been impressive."
In the first six months of this year, Northern New England managers have reduced total operating expenses by $4.2 million below the previous year, with six months to go, Rizzo said.
"Finance and facilities managers constantly review and evaluate all contracts, leases and transportation to match declines in mail volumes and revenues," Rizzo said. "For instance, they closed three leased warehouses in the past year and consolidated the storage into existing postal-owned space."
Whether the Portland-based district office will see major changes in congressional legislation is unclear.
Issa's bill requires the Postal Service, no later than one year after the enactment of the law, to submit to the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs "a comprehensive strategic plan to govern decisions relating to area and district office structure, and a 10-year plan for the consolidation of area and district offices."
The Collins bill requires a plan to close or consolidate administrative offices supporting Postal Service management, requiring implementation of this plan within one year. The Senate bill also requires the Postal Service to consolidate district offices located within 50 miles of each other, to consolidate those area and district offices that have less than the mean mail volume and number of work hours for all area and district offices, and to relocate area offices to headquarters.
Issa called the Senate's newly passed legislation "a $33 billion dollar taxpayer funded bailout," according to media reports, so it's unclear how the two bodies will reconcile their reform proposals.
The U.S. Postal Service
Northern New England District jobs paying over $80,000
• District manager, $161,002.
• Human resources specialist, $80,517.
• Manager of safety, $84,885.
• Manager of operations and programs (now an acting postmaster), $97,331.
• Manager of post office operations, $94,141.
• Safety specialist, $82,018.
• Manager of marketing, $106,757.
• Manager of labor relations, $84,506.
• Manager of finance, $89,515.
• Sales manager, $95,696
• Manager of human resources, $106,757
• Postmaster, Portland Post Office, $102,452
• Manager of information systems, $101,723
• District "comp coordinator," $89,009
• Manager of post office operations, $82,884
• Manager of delivery/customer service programs, $106,757
• Manager of customer services, $81,276
• Manager of post office operations, $96,467
• Manager of post office operations, $96,467
• Labor relation specialist, $96,467
• Manager of post office operations, $98,828
• Information systems specialist, $80,517
• Manager of post office operations, $90,333
• Manager of consumer and industry contact, $84,885
• Manager of address management system, $80,517
• Manager of post office operations $96,467
• Manager of "learn development div," $87,878
• Manager of post office operations, $112,068
• Manager of post office operations, $80,517