Looming deficits have put four Contra Costa County school districts in danger of county or state intervention if they fail to balance their budgets by June 1.

The Martinez, West Contra Costa, Knightsen and John Swett school districts must file "positive" budget reports with the county Office of Education next month to avoid intervention, said Ellen Ellster, county deputy superintendent.

"This is really very new and treacherous territory for the districts," she told the county board of education this week.

The county is monitoring the districts and plans to assist them as needed.

As of Jan. 31, budget reports showed deficits of $384,000 in Knightsen, $1.3 million in Martinez, $2.5 million in John Swett and $26.9 million in the West Contra Costa district, said Peggy Marshburn, spokeswoman for the county office of education.

Knightsen has considered merging with the Brentwood school district to solve its financial problems. Martinez trustees on Monday slashed $2.1 million from their budget, which should enable them to file a positive budget report, Liz Robbins, chief business official for Martinez, said Friday.

Federal stimulus money and proceeds from a recently passed parcel tax also will help the district pay its bills in the next two years, she said.

Robbins cautioned that Martinez and other districts will not know if they are out of the red until voters decide state propositions and the Legislature releases its revised budget in late May or early June.

"If the May 19 election doesn't go well," she said, "then we could see a lot of districts heading in that direction."

Jonathan Lockett contributed to this story. Reach Theresa Harrington at 925-945-4764 or tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com.