Tangipahoa Parish voters will decide March 25 whether to replace an existing property tax for the parish library system with a higher millage that could fund a range of improvements, including new facilities, upgraded technology and expanded hours.

The proposed 10-year, 5-mill tax would replace a 3-mill tax last renewed by voters in 2008.

The 5-mill tax is projected to generate $2.6 million per year and would be dedicated to “improving, maintaining, operating and supporting the Tangipahoa Parish Public Library and its branches,” according to the proposition.

Library Director Barry Bradford has said the tax increase could fund construction of new branches in Hammond, Ponchatoula and Loranger and expand the branch in Independence.

A new library in Kentwood also is planned. The Parish Council on Feb. 27 approved a land deal that will help the library system build a new branch on the north side of Main Street about a block west of the current library building.

The additional tax money also could help provide more computers; upgraded technology; outreach programs for the homebound; expanded outreach for schools, home schools, day cares and Head Start; more adult programming; and extended hours at all locations, Bradford has said.

The library system also receives a 2.81-mill tax, last renewed in 2013 for another 10 years. Together, the system’s two property taxes generate about $3.3 million per year, Bradford said.

“Pretty much everything we do comes out of that operating budget,” Bradford told the Ponchatoula Rotary in February. “Whatever we have left over, the parish allows us to keep … to put into capital funding to build new buildings and do capital projects.”

Bradford said the library system has done “quite a lot” with its existing 5.81 mills in combined taxes, “but there’s so much more that we feel like we could do.”

Tangipahoa Parish ranks third-to-last in south Louisiana for per capita spending on libraries, at $24.86 per person, Bradford said. Livingston Parish spends $33.45 per person, while Ascension Parish spends $57.92 and East Baton Rouge Parish spends $91.52, he said.

If the 5-mill tax doesn’t pass, the 3-mill tax would remain in place and be up for renewal in 2018.

The Hammond Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the proposition.

“The Tangipahoa Parish Library’s services and facilities promote education and improve the quality of life in Tangipahoa Parish,” Chamber Chair-elect Elsbet Smith Hollywood said. “The increased millage would allow the expansion of those facilities and services.”

Follow Heidi Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.