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Postal Service seeks to hike price of stamps to 49 cents

WASHINGTON — It soon could cost 49 cents to mail a letter.

The US Postal Service’s board of governors said Wednesday it wants to raise the price of a first-class stamp by 3 cents, citing the agency’s ‘‘precarious financial condition’’ and the uncertain prospects for postal overhaul legislation in Congress.

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‘‘Of the options currently available to the Postal Service to align costs and revenues, increasing postage prices is a last resort that reflects extreme financial challenges,’’ board chairman Mickey Barnett wrote to customers.

The rate proposal must be approved by the independent Postal Regulatory Commission. If the commission accepts it, the increase would become effective Jan. 26.

As part of the rate increase request, the cost for each additional ounce of first-class mail would increase a penny to 21 cents, while the price of mailing a postcard would rise by a cent to 34 cents. The cost to mail a letter to an international destination would jump 5 cents to $1.15.

Forever stamps bought before an increase would still cover first-class postage.

The Postal Service also said it would ask for an adjustment to bulk mail and package rates in a filing with the commission Thursday. No details were immediately provided.

Media and marketing businesses say a big increase in rates could hurt them and lower postal volume and revenues.

The Postal Service expects to lose $6 billion this year and is seeking help from Congress to fix its finances.

Barnett said the increase, if approved, would generate $2 billion in annual revenue for his agency.

The agency last raised postage rates on Jan. 27, including a penny increase in the cost of first-class mail to 46 cents.

Congress is considering cost-cutting moves that include ending Saturday mail delivery and most door-to-door delivery. The agency says ending Saturday delivery would save $2 billion each year. But many lawmakers, along with postal worker unions, have resisted such changes, saying they would inconvenience customers.

The Postal Service supports the proposed delivery changes. It also is seeking to reduce its $5.6 billion annual payment for future retiree health benefits. It missed two of those $5.6 billion payments last year, one deferred from the previous year, and is expected to miss another at the end of this month when its fiscal year ends.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahue has said that without help from Congress, the agency expects its multibillion-dollar annual losses to worsen.

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