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Post Office for Sale
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Great, in-depth article from www.savethepostofice.com on the large number of old post office buildings that are being liquidated around the country..

Post Offices sold and for sale: An update on the inventory

October 28, 2013

It’s not easy getting information out of the Postal Service about the properties it has sold or those it has earmarked for disposal, but thanks to investigative reporter Peter Byrne, a lot of news articles, and various other sources, there’s enough information out there to piece together a picture.  Here’s what it looks like.

Overall, the Postal Service has sold at least 60 properties over the past three years, maybe as many as a hundred.  It's brought in over $400 million through these sales and paid out over $3.7 million in commissions to its real estate broker, CBRE.  Of the post offices that have been sold, 18 were historic buildings on or eligible for the National Register.  In addition, over 40 historic post offices are currently listed for sale or under review and headed for the market place.

 

Investigating the sales

In its 2012 Annual Report to Congress, the Postal Service says that it “reviewed over 4,000 facilities, resulting in the identification of over 600 buildings earmarked for disposal.”  When the New York Times asked for details to help with its article on historic post offices being sold, the Postal Service said the 600 buildings included leased properties and there were no plans to sell that many.  The word “disposal” isn’t typically used for terminating leases, but the Postal Service wouldn’t provide any details about how the 600 broke down into leased and owned properties.

When asked to provide a list of the properties identified for disposal, the Postal Service typically refers reporters to the CBRE Properties for Sale website.  This website, however, does not list all the properties for sale, and it doesn’t include those that are known to be under review for potential sale.

Investigative reporter Peter Byrne spent the better part of a year gathering information about the postal facilities that had been sold over the past couple of years.  He filed several FOIA requests and had to fight with the Postal Service to get information about assessed values and other details on the sales.

It’s no surprise that the Postal Service would be less than cooperative.  As Byrne’s study reveals, many of the facilities were sold at less-than-market value, and it appears that the main beneficiary of most of the sales was the Postal Service’s real estate broker, CBRE.  According to the records obtained by Byrne, “The total assessed value of the CBRE's portfolio of 52 postal properties before it was sold was $232 million. CBRE sold the entire portfolio for $166 million.”  Yet CBRE has made millions in commissions off these sales.

Byrne summarizes his findings in an extremely informative report entitled Going Postal: U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s husband sells post offices to his friends, cheap.  Byrne tells a damning story about conflicts of interest and other shenanigans involving postal officials and the real estate company run by Richard Blum, husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein.  It’s well worth reading.  There's a Kindle Edition available on Amazon.com, but you don't need a Kindle to read it; you can access it on any Mac or tablet.  There's also a good excerpt from the report in the East Bay Express, here.

Through a FOIA request, Byrne obtained a list of 52 USPS properties sold by CBRE over the past three years, and he gathered CBRE invoices for commission payments on nearly all of these properties (many of which are here).  Many of the sales have been reported in the press, another key source of information about the sales.

 

What’s been sold?

Based on Byrne’s list of 52 sold properties plus a few more that the Postal Service left out or that occurred after the timeframe of his research, we’ve put together a list of 60 properties sold over the past three years.  There may be more, however.

In the 2012 Annual Report to Congress, the Postal Service says it disposed of 43 properties in fiscal year 2011 and 49 in fiscal year 2012.  For whatever reason, then, the list of 60 seems to be missing about 30 sales.

These missing sales may not add up to much in terms of revenue, however.  The gross proceeds for the 60 properties totals $426 million.  That is roughly in line with what the Postal Service states in its 2012 Annual Report: “Proceeds from building sales and the sale of property and equipment totaled $148 million in 2012, compared to $137 million and $70 million in 2011, and 2010, respectively.”

That adds up to $355 million, and it doesn’t include properties sold in FY 2013, so the list of 60, while it may have missing properties, seems to account for most of the revenue generated by the sales.

The initial contract between CBRE and the USPS failed to specify a maximum amount for what the Postal Service would pay its real estate broker.  In an audit report on the contract by the USPS OIG released in June 2013, this failure was the subject of some criticism.   As the OIG states, "Without establishing a maximum contract value the Postal Service is at risk of escalating uncontrolled future contract costs."

The OIG notes that as of February 2013, contract payments to CBRE exceeded $3 million, and postal officials increased contract funding from $2 million to $6 million.   The OIG audit doesn’t provide details, but Bryne’s records show that the total commission for the 51 properties for which he found data was $3.76 million.

The list of 60 properties contains 18 historic post office buildings (i.e., more than 50 years old, the benchmark for the National Register).  The gross proceeds for these properties was $315 million.  The sale of historic post offices represents about a third of the number of properties sold but accounts for three-fours of the revenue.

Here's a short version of the list of 60 sold properties, followed by a map showing their locations.  A larger map and a more detailed version of the list with data from the USPS facilities reports can be found on Google Docs, here.

 

What’s for sale?

That’s the story for what’s been sold recently.  There are many more properties currently on the market or at one stage or another in the process of being made ready for sale.

The only list of facilties for sale that the Postal Service has made public is the USPS-CBRE Properties for Sale website.  It currently lists 42 buildings and 9 land parcels.  It looks as though 15 of the buildings are historic properties.

But there are many more historic post offices known to be headed for the marketplace.  Some have gone through a “relocation” procedure, meaning the Postal Service has decided to sell the building and relocate retail services elsewhere.  Some of these aren’t officially listed for sale yet, but they are clearly headed for sale.  Other post offices have been listed for sale previously but are not on the Properties for Sale website right now, probably because no interested buyers have emerged.  A few properties without buyers have been turned over to the GSA for auction.

Save the Post Office has not been tracking all potential sales of postal facilities, but we have been keeping a record of historic post offices.  At this point, the list contains 63 historic post offices recently sold, for sale, or under consideration for sale.  Following are a summary report, list, and map.   A list with more details and a larger map can be found on Google Docs, here.

STATUS REPORT ON POST OFFICES SOLD & FOR SALE

Sold
18
Sold and Razed (Virginia Beach, VA)
1
Listed on CBRE website
11
Negotiating (on CBRE website)
2
In contract (on CBRE website)
2
For sale via GSA
2
For sale
7
Previously listed
3
Under review
12
Approved for sale
3
Closing on appeal (Fernandina Beach, FLStamford, CT)
2
Sale on hold (Northport, NY)
1
Total
63

 

For more articles and information about historic post offices for sale, check out this resource page.

 

 
Military Re-Deposit Time and Retirement
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Before joining the ranks at the Postal Service, many employees served in our nation's military. When considering retirement, it is important to explore the idea of "buying back" that time to be credited to an employee's FERS or CSRS annuity payment in retirement. The Postal News recently ran an informative an interesting article on the subject. It is a worthwhile read if it applies to you.

 

USPS: Notice to All USPS Employees with Military Service

Should I Complete a Service Credit Deposit for Post-1956 Military Service?3-a-USPS-news-small

A deposit for qualifying military service is optional and may benefit your retirement; however, YOU must take the first step! Interest on the deposit begins to accrue after two years of initial career Federal service, so it is to your advantage to begin the process now rather than later in your career.

If you were first employed under CSRS before October 1, 1982, credit for your Post-1956 Honorable active duty military service will be applied as follows:

  • If you are not eligible and will not be eligible for Social Security at age 62, you receive full credit for your Post-1956 military service;
  • If you are eligible for Social Security (or will be eligible at age 62), and you do not pay a deposit to USPS® prior to your retirement, you will receive full credit for your Post-1956 military service until you reach age 62. At that time, your credit for military service will be removed causing your civil service annuity to be reduced 2% for each year of military service;
  • If you are eligible for Social Security (or will be eligible at age 62), and you do pay a deposit, plus any incurred interest, to USPS prior to your retirement, you will receive lifetime credit for Post-1956 military service.

If you were first employed under CSRS after October 1, 1982, you will receive full credit for your Honorable active duty military service (if you are not retired military) only if you pay a deposit, plus any incurred interest, to USPS before you retire.

If you were first employed under FERS, credit for your Honorable active duty military service will be applied as follows:

  • If you do not make a deposit, plus any incurred interest, for all Honorable active duty military service that occurred after 1957, you will not receive credit toward eligibility to retire or in the computation of your FERS annuity.
  • If you are military retired, you will receive credit in the computation of your FERS annuity for all Honor­able active duty military service that occurred before 1957 without making a deposit.

If you are in receipt of military retired pay, military service is not creditable unless:

  • It was awarded due to a service-connected disability incurred in combat;
  • Caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war; or
  • Awarded under reserve retiree provisions under Chapter 67, Title 10, USC; or
  • You “waive” your military retired pay.

All Service Credit Deposits for Military Service Must be Paid in Full Prior to Your Separation/Retirement Date.

Information concerning Military Service Credit toward Retirement under CSRS and FERS can be found at the following websites:

— Compensation, Labor Relations, 10-17-13

 
A Postal Service IPO?
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A private equity stake in the Postal Service isn't as crazy as it sounds, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. The possibility of it may depend on the success of a similar move made to cut costs by the Royal Mail system in Great Britain...

 

If you were ask the average American to invest in the U.S. Postal Service, you would get a puzzled response. After all, the USPS lost $15.9 billion last year. Taking an equity stake in such a business would probably strike most people as a sure way to diminish one’s net worth.

Then again, it might be quite lucrative. Consider the outcome of the highly anticipated initial public offering of the Royal Mail (RMG:LN) on Friday in the U.K. Investors were so hungry for shares of the 360-year-old postal service that the stock price rose 38 percent on the first day.
In short, there is still enormous value in a business most Americans consider doomed. If only Facebook’s (FB) first-day IPO result had been so good.
The Royal Mail’s investors understand that the Internet is decimating letter delivery revenue. But they expect the newly privatized national mail service’s package business to grow as its customers shop more on Amazon.com (AMZN) and other online retailers.
The same is true of the USPS. Its first-class mail revenue declined by 3 percent to $28 billion last year, while shipping and package services revenue rose by 5 percent, to $11 billion. This why the USPS wants to stop delivering letters on Saturday—saving $2 billion annually—as it continues six-day-a-week package service. Congress, however, is forcing the USPS to do both, despite its losses.
Ultimately, Congress is a bigger problem for the USPS than the internet. Democrats are allied with postal worker unions that want to protect the jobs of their members. Republicans are philosophically opposed allowing the USPS to expand its business because they don’t like the idea of a government agency competing with the private sector.
The net effect: USPS can’t meaningfully cut its costs or boost its revenues, locking the service in a death spiral. Not that privatization is only answer: Other governments don’t insist that their national postal service restrict operations to mail delivery. The French postal service, for instance, offers banking services. (The U.S. one did, too, until the 1960s.)
Can Congress continue to let the USPS bleed to death? The Royal Mail’s successful IPO shows that it doesn’t have to be that way.
 
Your TSP Account During the Shutdown
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This fact sheet was provided by the Thrift Savings Plan in March of 2011, but it is still applicable today. There are some important things to know regarding how your TSP is affected during a government shutdown...

 

What would be the effect of a Government
shutdown on the TSP?
A Federal Government shutdown would
not affect the TSP. Neither the TSP nor the
Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board
receives annual appropriations from the
Congress. Since the TSP is not dependent
on Congressional appropriations, a Government
shutdown would not affect the TSP;
the TSP would continue to operate “business
as usual.”
Will my TSP investments be affected?
What about disbursements?
Investment activity will continue. Share
prices and account balances will continue to
be updated each business day, and loans and
withdrawals will continue to be disbursed.
What happens to my contributions?
Because you are not paid during a furlough,
your TSP contributions will stop, and, if you
are a FERS employee, you will not receive
agency contributions during this time.
Can I take a TSP loan while I’m
furloughed?
Yes. By law, a TSP participant may take a
TSP loan any time before separation.
5 U.S.C. § 8433(g)(1). The TSP has adopted
an administrative rule that provides
that TSP participants must be in a pay status
in order to take a TSP loan. 5 C.F.R. §
1655.2(b). The TSP adopted this rule because
it generally requires TSP participants
to agree to repay their loans through payroll
deduction. 5 C.F.R. § 1655.12(b). The first
payment is due on or before the 60th day
following the loan issue date. 5 C.F.R. §
1655.14(c).
Since shutdowns are rare occurrences and
are typically of short duration, the TSP’s
Executive Director has determined that it
is in the best interest of TSP participants to
interpret the requirement that participants
be in a pay status to mean that a break in
pay due to a Government shutdown does
not disqualify one from TSP loan eligibility.
A short-term break in pay status would still
allow participants to commence payment
by payroll deduction within the required 60
days of the loan issue date. If a shutdown
were to extend beyond 60 days, participants
would still be responsible for making loan
payments (see next question).
What happens to my loan payments
while I’m furloughed?
If you have an outstanding loan and you are
furloughed, your loan payments will stop
because they are deducted from your pay.
Loans are not considered in default until
the participant has missed more than 2½
payments. If you miss a loan payment (or
two) as a result of the furlough, you always
have the option to make direct payments to
the TSP using the Loan Payment Coupon
available in the Forms & Publications section
on the TSP website. Otherwise, your
loan term will be extended or, if you have
requested the maximum loan term, you may
have a balloon payment at the end of the
loan term. If you miss more than 2½ payments,
we will notify you by mail that you
must mail in a personal check for the “cure”
amount to get your loan back on track.
Does my agency have to send in a Form
TSP-41 notifying the TSP that I have been
furloughed?
Your agency should not send a Form TSP-41 to the TSP
during a Federal Government shutdown. A shutdown is
a rare occurrence and is typically of short duration. The
Form TSP-41 is intended for participants who are being
placed on extended leave without pay, e.g., due to illness,
military furlough, maternity leave, etc.
It is not practical for the agencies to complete and submit
Forms TSP-41 for all of their furloughed employees
who have TSP loans (both at the beginning of the
furlough and at the end), and it is not practical for the
TSP to process these forms.
Can the Government take money from the
TSP to resolve the financial situation?
No, the money in the TSP is held in trust for its participants.
Neither Congress nor the Administration can
take money from your TSP account.

 

 
Important Factors When Considering a TSP Loan
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tsp.svg

Recent statistics from this American Funds piece show that 21% of employer sponsored investment plan participants had borrowed from their plans by the end of 2011. This includes federal workers contributing to the Thrift Savings Plan. While borrowing from your TSP account can be a good way to attain some liquidity or eliminate high-interest debt, there are some important things to think about before sending in that TSP-20 Form. Some considerations are how repayments would be made on your loan, what would happen if your loan were to enter non-payment status, and how outstanding loan balances would be taxed if not repayed after separating from service, just to name a few.

Before applying for a TSP loan, be sure to visit https://www.tsp.gov/planparticipation/loans/loanBasics.shtml and read through the the TSP's publication on loans from February, 2013. It walks participants through the basic and not-so-basic questions that should be asked when taking a Thrift Savings Plan loan.

Be an advocate for yourself!

 
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