SUNDAY High fuel prices hurt everyone

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By Ralph Damiani

As we reported several days ago, high fuel prices are affecting the county and the schools, as well as each and every resident.

This is a double whammy as where does government get its money?

Well, the affect of high fuel prices are hurting across the board. Several counties are feeling the squeeze as fuel costs continue to rise around the nation.

With no relief in sight, temporary changes are quickly becoming policy.

Los Alamos is cutting back trips and encouraging more carpooling.

In Moriarty and Edgewood, the company that has handled school bus transportation for more than 20 years has grounded its entire fleet, citing the high price of diesel fuel as the main cause, reports the Associated Press. School officials there are scrambling to come up with a solution before school resumes.

State Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught has announced that there be an additional New Mexico Park-And-Ride bus in the fleet of eight buses between Albuquerque and Santa Fe to meet increased ridership demands.

This is in addition to an already existing bus route that leaves and departs at the same time on this route.

As fuel prices rise, people are looking for other ways to travel. This is so right here as ridership on Atomic City Transport is zooming up and up.

State Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson said the gas tab for the state police in May was $56,000 higher than the previous month at $390,000.

The department has been able to cover the expense because of open vacancies in the agency, but Olson said it is requesting additional money this budget year to cope with rising costs.

A cost that will be passed on to all of us.

Others are taking a very radical approach – four-day work weeks.

Mesilla employees are on a four-day work week and others are taking a hard look.

Even the state. Gov. Bill Richardson approved compressed work weeks and telecommuting by state employees to help with the high cost of gasoline. His executive order allows state agencies to implement four-day work weeks to lower commuting costs.

An AP-Yahoo News poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, has tracked the same 2,000 people since last fall to see how their views change during the presidential campaign.

The latest survey shows how the price of gasoline has caught or eclipsed every other issue, not just as a political topic but also as a problem in people's lives.

It causes almost everything to rise in price, makes travel harder and simply eats away at one’s pocket.

We fear that it could be a cold, cold winter as who knows what natural gas may cost?

Post office posts $1 billion loss

In a somewhat related story, The Associated Press reports that the Postal Service had a net loss of more than a billion dollars in the third quarter of the fiscal year.

For the quarter ended June 30, the loss was $1.1 billion, which officials blamed on reduced mail volume in the slowed economy, coupled with rapidly rising transport costs because of high fuel prices.

The post office is working to deal with its losses by cutting costs. The agency has reduced its staff by about 100,000 since 2000 and is offering early retirement to some clerks, mail handlers and supervisors.

Not what you wanted to hear if you thought the mail was already slow.

While the post office operated in the black the last four years, using the money to pay down debts, it has faced significant losses in the past. For example, it was $1.5 billion in the red in 1991, and was down $1.7 billion in 1993. The post office does not receive a government subsidy for operations.

For the quarter, operating revenue was $17.9 billion, down $437 million, or 2.4 percent, compared with the same period last year. Operating expenses totaled $19.0 billion, an increase of $178 million, or 1.0 percent, from the third quarter last year.

Total mail volume was 48.5 billion pieces, a 5.5 percent drop from the same period last year.

The agency said its fiscal 2008 year-to-date net loss totals $1.13 billion after nearly breaking even in the first two quarters.

Meanwhile, the post office said on-time delivery reached record highs for all three categories of first-class mail the Postal Service tracks. Overnight service was 97 percent on-time, up from 96 percent during the same period last year. Two-day service was 95 percent on-time, up from 93 percent, and three-day service was 94 percent on-time, up from 91 percent.

Postage rates rose a penny in May to the current 42-cent price. Another increase is expected next May, with the amount to be announced in February. Any increase is limited to the rate of inflation.

We wish them luck.