The D.C. government, facing a sizable 1990 budget deficit and the possibility of even larger future debts, may have to furlough city employees to meet payroll and other financial obligations this summer, City Administrator Carol B. Thompson said yesterday.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Thompson also warned that wholesale layoffs of workers, including police officers, are likely to be needed in the next few years to solve what Barry administration officials expect will be a worsening financial crisis for the District.

Thompson's comments were made on the eve of a scheduled budget meeting between Mayor Marion Barry and D.C. Council members. Officials said yesterday the meeting will include discussions on a range of options, possibly including higher taxes, a new round of spending cuts and the elimination of a 2 percent pay increase that had been promised to 10,000 non-union workers.

"I'm one who feels that there are going to have to be reductions across the board, and police won't be exempt," Thompson said. This year, she added, "we possibly may do a furlough. That's something we're considering."

Joslyn N. Williams, leader of the Washington area AFL-CIO, said the administration has not contacted unions about the possibility of a furlough, but "if they're looking at it, it better be an absolute last resort."

"I'm not convinced that the work force is necessarily the problem," Williams added. "When you RIF people {a reduction in force}, you send people into the social service system. You either pay at one end or you pay at the other."

The summit meeting and the remarks by Thompson suggest that the city's already fragile fiscal health could be deteriorating faster than initially expected, according to several officials.

Three months ago, the city projected a $96 million deficit next year, which would more than double to $205 million by 1995. The city recently revised those estimates upward, projecting a $160 million budget shortfall in 1992, growing to $375 million in 1995.

Thompson expressed frustration over the D.C. Council's recent rejection of a round of new tax increases proposed by the Barry administration, and said that new taxes are likely, if not now then after citywide elections in the fall.

"I think some more affluent people in Washington are going to have to accept paying for some of the communities that are not affluent," she said.

Any proposals to raise new taxes and cut personnel are not likely to be well received by council members, most of whom are running for reelection or for higher office.

The council has overwhelmingly rejected Barry's proposal to impose a new tax on professional services and public utilities, while clearing the way for a reduction in the property tax. Some members said yesterday they doubted the council would be willing to reconsider those actions.

A furlough or reduction in the work force would face similar political problems. Barry proposed furloughing government employees to save money in 1989, but he retreated under heavy pressure from the unions.

Barry reduced the city's work force by several hundred in 1980, but many of the workers were later rehired after the action was ruled illegal.

Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, said he was willing to entertain any ideas by the administration, including a furlough, for closing the budget deficit this year.

"Everything has to be on the table," Wilson said. "The situation is grim . . . . I'm interested in doing anything possible to get {government} overspending under control."

Last week, government finance officials reported that tax collections were running $28 million behind what they had been projected to be, primarily because of lower-than-expected sales and corporate franchise tax collection.

Wilson and other critics also have said the city, which employs 48,000 workers and has a $3.2 billion annual budget, maintains a costly, "bloated bureaucracy."

The city showed a modest surplus last year, after reporting a

$14 million deficit in 1988. Thompson and Wilson predicted the city would likely incur a deficit in the current fiscal year. By law, the city may not end the year with a deficit, although there is no effective way of enforcing the requirement.

"We're committed to trying to balance the budget," Thompson said. "But with the economic situation and with the spending pressures, particularly in human services and in corrections, it is very difficult to do that."

Thompson cited, in particular, the city's budget for shelters. The council voted to slash spending on homelessness from $20 million to $14 million on the theory that there would be changes in Initiative 17, the city law that guarantees shelter to anyone who requests it. The council has yet to approve a scaling-back of the initiative.