Add “upkeep of postal facilities” to the list of tasks that get increasingly difficult to do under a budget crunch. Yet, Americans are passionate about their post offices, so it seems maintenance should be a priority.
However, the U.S. Postal Service’s financial challenges have made it hard to maintain facilities. During fiscal years 2009-2012, the Postal Service experienced a $382 million decrease in its budget for facility repairs, alterations, and capital improvements, resulting in incomplete repairs or unmet capital improvements. Our recent audit report found about half of the incomplete repairs represent safety or security issues and potential future major repairs.
Future costs for these unfunded repairs could reach $1.4 billion. In addition, our work determined that some of these repairs were potential Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations.
The Postal Service operates 32,000 facilities throughout the country with 280 million square feet of space, and it includes post offices, mail processing facilities, and annexes. The Postal Service’s Facilities Department says employees and customers are not in danger, as it prioritizes repairs based on the safety and security of Postal Service property. Still, the Postal Service’s capital spending freeze initiated in 2009 has clearly had an impact on the ability to upgrade and repair facilities. The Postal Service spent 29 percent below the industry average on facility repairs in FY 2012. Lower priority repairs and improvements are less likely to occur, potentially leading to a longer-term cost.
Our audit found the Postal Service lacking in developing a strategy to complete all necessary repairs and it did not always accurately prioritize repairs. We recommended it develop a strategy, reallocate funds to complete repairs, and reconcile its prioritization list annually.
We welcome your thoughts.
- How best can the Postal Service make the necessary repairs to its facilities while operating under budget constraints?
- Will people be interested in buying or leasing Postal Service buildings that haven't been well maintained? Or could it affect the value of the properties?
- Are there issues other than decreased funding that prevent the Postal Service from completing necessary repairs?