Prince William County school officials have found something they're usually short of: money. Or at least the power to raise some.

Officials learned recently that $800,000 in bonds from a 1977 referendum were never sold, and that the authority to sell them still exists, the county's bond counsel said.

John Colson, school administration budget director, said the leftover 1977 bonds, part of a bond referendum for Potomac High School, could be piggy-backed onto the sale of $44.89 million in school bonds approved by county voters last month. Those bonds, which will finance construction of a high school, a middle school, two elementary schools and an addition to an elementary school, will be sold in stages, beginning next year.

"Eight hundred thousand dollars is too small an amount to go into a money market with all by itself," Colson said.

The $800,000 will not be part of the first bond sale next year, however, because school board members have not agreed on how to spend the money. Bond counsel, the Richmond firm of McGuire Woods Battle and Boothe, has said the $800,000 can be used "only for the projects contemplated" by the 1977 referendum or for improvements at "only those schools in existence at the time of the 1977 election."

Colson said he discovered the unused bonding authority while going over the files for the 1977 referendum. He found that although voters had approved $14.95 million in bonds, only $14.15 million had been sold.