SAN RAMON VALLEY residents might not be aware of it, but this is Election Day for them.

Voters from Alamo to San Ramon are being asked to renew the parcel tax for education for another seven years and increase the levy from $90 a year to $144. But voters can't go down to a local polling location to cast a ballot. That's because this is a mail-in election. And the ballots must be received by elections officials before 8 p.m. tonight. In other words, it's too late to use the postal service.

For those who waited until the last moment, there is an alternative: Complete the ballot you received in the mail and take it to one of two drop-off locations between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. today. The locations are: Creekside Community Church, 1350 Danville Blvd., Alamo, and San Ramon Valley Conference Center, 3301 Crow Canyon Rd., San Ramon. Or, you can drop off your ballot at the county elections office between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. today. The address is 555 Escobar St., Martinez.

If you can't find your ballot, you'll have to go to the elections office today for a new one. If you have questions, call 925-335-7800.

As for the parcel tax, Measure C, we urge voters to support it. Last year, the district asked voters to renew the assessment and increase it immediately to $166 per year with an annual cost-of-living adjustment. We supported that proposal, as did nearly 64 percent of district voters. But that was about 3 percentage points shy of the two-thirds approval needed to pass a school parcel tax in California.

So the district is trying again. To make the measure more palatable to a small minority who might switch their votes, the district has reduced the amount of the tax to $144 per year, eliminated the cost-of-living adjustment and preserved the seven-year term for the renewal.

The parcel tax is a flat fee for each piece of property, unlike school construction bonds district voters have previously approved that are based on the value of the property. Those construction bonds, which are not at issue in this election, currently cost taxpayers about $52 per $100,000 assessed valuation or about $390 a year for a $750,000 home. We mention this so that voters understand the different school district levies on their property tax bills.

As the state budget and funding for education have deteriorated since last year, the need for the parcel tax renewal is even greater. The tax would bring in about $7 million a year, which would offset most of the $8 million in cuts the district has planned for the upcoming fiscal year if the measure fails.

Without the tax, the district is looking at raising class sizes in kindergarten through third grade; reducing elementary science, music, art and physical education specialists; and trimming school library positions. Residents would be wise to preserve the quality of their schools by passing Measure C.