Mayoral candidate Sharon Pratt Dixon said yesterday that increases in D.C. taxes next year would be "absolutely criminal" and repeated her pledge to cut 2,000 managers from the city government payroll, adding that Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. would be the only cabinet member she would retain if elected.

Dixon, one of five major candidates in the Democratic Party's Sept. 11 mayoral primary, also called for a return to "basic ethics" in Washington to overcome racial and economic polarization, and blamed her opponents in the election and Mayor Marion Barry for leaving the city "bereft of real leadership."

"We've got a lot more on the line in this election than even the escalating homicides, a lot more on the line than even the serious financial shortfalls," Dixon said during a luncheon interview with reporters and editors of The Washington Post. "We've got to embrace and decide what we are going to be about as a town."

On another issue, Dixon said that as mayor she would change the size and composition of the board of trustees at the University of the District of Columbia to make it smaller and less intrusive in the school's day-to-day administration.

One of two women seeking the Democratic nomination, Dixon said she has encountered considerable resistance to her candidacy because of her sex, especially from the District's "monied interests," ministers and other major institutional figures.

"A lot of the leadership in this town, I think they envision this job going to a man," Dixon said.

At the same time, she said women will hold the balance of power in the primary election eight weeks from today, particularly because they represent a 60 percent majority of those who go to the polls.

Dixon, 46, who has never held elective public office, has relished her role as an outsider to the Barry administration and members of the D.C. Council, three of whom are running in the Democratic mayoral primary. She continued yesterday to contrast her career in private industry, as a former Potomac Electric Power Co. vice president, and as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, with her opponents' long tenures in local politics.

The other major candidates in the primary are D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, Council Chairman David A. Clarke, and council members Charlene Drew Jarvis (Ward 4) and John Ray (At Large).

"I think they have failed to exercise leadership," Dixon said of the council members. "They have been less than forthcoming in terms of their whole checks-and-balances role. They have very much surrendered to the mayor."

Later, Dixon faulted the city's political, religious and business communities for not taking Barry to task when reports surfaced several years ago about alleged drug use by the mayor. Barry is now on trial in federal court on 14 drug-related charges.

"The political leadership wasn't going to say anything, because they were looking for endorsements," Dixon said. "The religious leadership didn't say anything because they were looking for grants. The business community, the Board of Trade, never did anything aggressive -- they were too busy looking out for their own economic interest."

With the District facing an estimated $100 million deficit this coming year, Dixon said her "first order of business is to get the city government working again: to handle the serious financial shortfall."

Contrary to what some officials contend is needed for the city to erase its debt, Dixon ruled out any tax increase, saying, "I think it would be absolutely criminal to consider a tax increase in this environment.

"I think you can't deliver services at the level we deliver them now and actually ask people to pay more money for the privilege," Dixon said. "We're taxing our tax base out of the city anyway."

Instead of raising taxes, Dixon called for "targeted" cuts of at least 2,000 mid- and upper-level, non-tenured managers in the city government, which she said would generate $50 million to $100 million in savings. Whoever succeeds Barry will have to order deep personnel cuts, Dixon added.

"One reason the city's bureacracy has managed to get so big but services so poor {is} because we have too much of that upper mid-management fat, and not enough people who actually provide services," Dixon said. "Anybody who says there aren't going to be cuts is being dishonest."

Dixon cited the D.C. Department of Finance and Revenue as one of the "bloated" agencies of local government, saying 190 managers are overseeing the work of 360 employees.

Linda Grant, the spokeswoman for the department, disputed Dixon's figures, saying that senior management consisted of a director, five associate directors and 10 division chiefs. There also are some lower-level "team leaders" with some supervisory duties, "but nowhere close to the number" mentioned by Dixon, Grant said.

Grant added that although the department was authorized to have a total of 560 employees, including supervisors, there are now 500 in all.

Dixon said that once the city budget was balanced through cuts, her administration would be able to persuade Congress to increase the federal government's annual payment to the District by $100 million to $200 million. The annual federal government payment to the District has remained stable for several years at about $430 million.

Dixon also said she wanted to establish a venture capital program for businesses, especially black-owned firms; favored scaling back Initiative 17 for the homeless, in part because "a few profiteers have been the ones who benefited" under the mandatory shelter law; and that with the exception of Fulwood, would order a "complete change" in the makeup of the mayor's cabinet.

"I think it's time for new blood," she said.