A sliding economy and signs of growing voter disaffection with government could spell trouble at the polls for local bond referendums earmarked for projects from schools to roads, local officials say.

"The bonds are going to have rougher sledding than before," said Fairfax Supervisor Thomas M. Davis III (R-Mason), who tried unsuccessfully to remove some of Fairfax's seven bonds from Tuesday's ballot. "I was at a civic association meeting in a school and said, 'This school is going to be air-conditioned under this bond.' They said, 'We don't care. You're spending too much money.' "

The uncertainty comes at a time when four Northern Virginia counties, and Prince George's, have placed 19 referendums totaling $518 million on their ballots.

Fairfax voters will be facing the largest total: $299.7 million, which includes $169.2 million for schools, $80 million for roads, and $21.7 million for affordable and elderly housing. Prince George's voters will be asked whether to approve five referendums totaling $111.3 million. The largest item is $47.9 million for transportation.

Most counties have not seen active campaigns either for or against the bond referendums, but local officials said they are more worried than they have been in years.

Most Washington area jurisdictions readily approved bonds of all types during the boom years of the 1980s, when growth fueled the demand for new roads and buildings. Municipalities often use bonds to spread the cost of major projects over several decades so that future users of facilities help pay for them, rather than just current residents.

But now, with most counties facing revenue shortfalls and property sales dropping, officials predict that voters may be unwilling to commit to decades of debt repayment.

Several local officials said they are concerned that a low voter turnout in next week's election, which features few major contests, could give bond opponents more influence at the polls.

"The economy is in such a slump that people are real nervous and . . . with the hoorah over the federal deficit, there's a general lack of faith in government," said Charles A. Bos, vice chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

Officials across the region said that school and most road bonds have the best chances of succeeding, as they have in the past.

"People will be more careful in their votes when they go into the booth, but I think they'll remember {Fairfax's $169.2 million school bond} is a bond that affects children and education and, in Fairfax County, that's something they hold sacred," said Kevin H. Bell, a longtime PTA activist heading Fairfax's bond committee.

But other projects may be more at risk, community activists said.

In Loudoun, for example, the county Republican Party narrowly voted to oppose an $11.2 million landfill expansion bond.

Prince William officials are worried about their $43 million road bond in part because the county has a history of rejecting bond referendums. The supervisors authorized a $39,000 media campaign -- including a commercial airing on local cable stations -- and a private group has planted "Vote Yes" signs on major commuting routes. Officials across the region also have tried to point out that growth is bound to pick up again over the long haul.

"It's important to keep the momentum you've already made," said Rebecca Reid, spokeswoman for Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening. "If you put the brakes on now, then you're really going to be stuck."

Staff writer Peter Baker contributed to this report.