Roundup: Postmaster Layoffs Coming

As many as 3,300 postmasters could lose their fulltime jobs when the Postal Service enacts sweeping changes in September • Majority of Wisconsin rural district enact education tax increases  • Small and rural states go after NIH funding structure

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This map shows post offices that are scheduled to have their hours reduced between now and the end of September. The changes could affect the jobs of about 3,300 postmasters, SavethePostOffice reports.

More than 3,000 postmasters could lose their full-time jobs at the end of September when the U.S. Postal Service is scheduled to enact sweeping changes in how local post offices are operated and staffed.

That’s according to the website SavethePostOffice.com, which follows postal policy, paying special attention to the POStPlan, which is reducing post office hours and replacing full-time postmasters with part-time employees.

The exact number of postmaster reductions will depend on existing vacancies.

 “By October, the institution of the small-town career postmaster will become a thing of the past at almost half the country’s post offices,” the website reports:

As best as we can figure it using USPS lists, about 8,800 post offices have had their hours reduced over the past year and a half …  For another 300 offices, a public meeting was held recently or it’s scheduled soon, but no implementation date has been announced. 

That leaves around 3,900 post offices where no meeting has yet been scheduled and implementation has yet to occur.   At many of these offices, there’s currently a postmaster vacancy; at others, a vacancy will open up over the coming months if the postmaster can find a new position.  If implementation continues at the current rate (about a hundred a month), some 600 of these post offices will have their hours reduced during the spring and summer. 

In the end, there will be something like 3,300 post offices where the postmaster will still be on the job as of September 30, 2014.  On that date, these postmasters will lose their full-time jobs as part of a Reduction in Force — i.e., they will be RIF’d.

SavethePostOffice has several lists and maps that allow users to explore how the changes might affect their local branch of the U.S. Postal Service. It’s worth a look.

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Michigan’s farmers and other rural businesses need broadband to compete in the marketplace, says the president of the state Agribusiness Association.

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A majority of Wisconsin rural school districts that had tax increases on the ballot Tuesday came away with voter approval to raise more public money for local education. Twenty rural districts had tax proposals on the ballot this week, ranging from $440,000 to $27.6 million. Twelve initiatives passed; eight failed.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports:

Rural school districts have come under increased pressure as declining enrollment, fluctuating state aid, and increasing operational costs have combined to force districts into an uncomfortable corner – ask the community for a tax increase or face drastic budget cuts.

“It is a very difficult decision — the school is the heart and soul of the community,” said Jerry Fiene, executive director of the Rural Schools Alliance.  “And whenever you have to increase taxes it’s always a point of contention.”

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The director of a Cambridge, Massachusetts, research institute prefers the role of “the Sheriff of Nottingham” to that of “poor serfs” in an emerging fight over how the National Institutes of Health awards grant funding.

“There’s a battle between merit and egalitarianism,” said Dr. David Page, director of the Whitehead Institute, a research institution in Cambridge affiliated with MIT, reports the Boston Globe. “If the table is tilted, we know the table is going to be tilted away from us. It’s straight out of Robin Hood.”

States that don’t have big-name research centers want NIH to put more money into funds that award small and emerging research centers, rather than focusing their funding on big urban centers. Boston, for example, got 8% of all NIH funding in 2013.

But smaller research centers aren’t necessarily lacking in merit, others say.

 “I certainly understand that research centers like Boston are going to naturally attract a great deal of investment from the NIH,” said Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican on the Appropriations Committee. “Nevertheless, we need to remember that innovation can spring forth from the smaller research labs that traditionally have not had a lot of support from the federal government.”

Collins and others are proposing to raise funding for the NIH’s Institutional Development Award from $273 million to $310 million. That funding typically supports projects in smaller states outside the big, metro research areas.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren says the problem isn’t that NIH neglects smaller research centers. It’s that the nation’s research agenda is “squeezing the NIH too hard” because of limited funding.

“It shouldn’t be a part of the conversation, this idea of pitting two groups against each other,” Warren said. “Our focus should be on increasing the investment in scientific research, not on how best to divide up a shrinking pot.”

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Residents of Deer Trail, Colorado, have voted down an ordinance that would have allowed the city to issue licenses to hunt drones that might fly in local airspace.

 

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