updated 11/15/2007 12:37:56 PM ET 2007-11-15T17:37:56

Starting now, the price of a stamp won't go up faster than the rate of inflation, the Postal Service said Thursday.

Under a law passed last year, the post office would have been allowed one more rate increase under old rules that could have permitted a larger increase, but which would have involved longer, more complex procedures than the new system.

The postal board of governors decided to forgo that last increase and said that when it seeks rate changes it will follow the new procedures adopted Oct. 29 by the independent Postal Regulatory Commission. Under the new rules the post office will have to keep its rate increases at or under the rate of inflation for first-class and standard mail and periodicals, but will have greater flexibility in setting rates for parcels and Priority and Express mail.

"We thank the Postal Regulatory Commission for completing the new rules eight months ahead of the statutory deadline," said Postmaster General John E. Potter. "This delivers one of the main goals of the new law for business mailers — a predictable price schedule."

The agency also announced it finished the fiscal year Sept. 30 with a smaller loss than expected.

While the post office ended the year $5.1 billion in the red, that was about $300 million less than projected.

The loss was a result of a required contribution to set up an employee retirement health benefits fund. Without that requirement the agency would have ended the year with a $1.6 billion surplus.

National on-time performance scores for the delivery of First-class Mail hit all-time highs in the fourth quarter of FY 2007 for all three categories the Postal Service tracks. National overnight performance was 96 percent on-time in the final quarter — a first for the last quarter and for two consecutive quarters.

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