Reflecting the slowdown in the economy, projected tax revenue in Prince George's County this fiscal year will be $36.5 million less than expected, County Executive Parris N. Glendening told the County Council yesterday.

Glendening said stringent measures would be necessary in the coming months, including an across-the-board hiring freeze he said is in effect, except in education.

Glendening predicted the economic slowdown will continue into the next fiscal year and said he wanted to work with the council and the community to build a consensus on possible cuts.

"We have 18 months of hard decision-making, hard fiscal management ahead of us," Glendening said. "If the economy continues down, freezing {jobs} won't be enough. If we don't cover the shortfall and it gets worse, it won't be a question of filling vacancies but of maintaining occupied positions."

Earlier this month, Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, citing an expected $150 million revenue shortfall, instituted a statewide hiring freeze and other cost-cutting measures. Virginia officials, meanwhile, are working to slash $1.4 billion from the commonwealth's two-year budget.

Last week, Montgomery County officials began instituting belt-tightening measures because of a $30 million projected revenue shortfall, mostly from reduced real estate and income taxes, against a $1.6 billion budget.

The projected $36.5 million revenue shortfall in Prince George's represents a fraction of the county's $1 billion budget, Glendening said. Even with the shortfall, he said, revenue should grow 6.7 percent over last year. This compares with earlier growth rates of 9 percent or more.

"We're still in a growth mode," Glendening said. "But we must manage carefully, pull our belt in carefully. Within the metropolitan area, Prince George's is doing relatively well. We won't have as deep cuts as others, and we will come out of the slowdown quicker."

Making up most of the revenue shortfall are reductions of $1.1 million in property taxes, $20.2 million in transfer and recordation taxes from real estate sales, $4.9 million in reduced state and federal money, $6.1 million in other local taxes and fees and $1 million in interest.

Council members did not challenge Glendening's forecast. But they expressed concern over any postponement in plans to increase the county police force, currently 1,203 officers, by 200 officers.

Last week the county cut two police academy classes scheduled for October with 70 recruits to a single class of 45 students.

Glendening defended his decision to drop one recruit class before assessing all county departments, saying it would be unfair to hire new employees who might soon be laid off and that their hiring had only been "postponed."

"You've taken them off the top and now you're going to evaluate everything else," said council member Hilda R. Pemberton.

That evaluation will begin Monday when, Glendening said, he will direct department heads to come up with "a number of scenarios for this fiscal year" according to three projected revenue totals.

Speaking at a promotion ceremony last night for county police officers, Glendening encouraged them to work harder in the face of the economic slowdown, and said they could expect "less expansion, less equipment" and a slowing of hiring.

Although the council will have no formal say in cuts during the budget year, Chairman Jo Ann T. Bell said she expects the executive to meet with the panel on such matters "every five or six weeks." Staff writer Debbie M. Price contributed to this report.