Proposing a budget that provides "considerably less" than what he said the school system needs, Prince George's Superintendent John A. Murphy yesterday recommended increasing school spending by nearly $48 million, most of which would go to previously negotiated employee pay raises.

The $603 million budget proposal, which represents an 8.6 percent increase over this year's spending, is virtually devoid of new initiatives. The proposal was prepared, Murphy said, with the "fiscal realities" of the recession-wracked Washington area in mind.

"There was very little we could do with this year's budget," Murphy said. A projected increase in enrollment of 2,000 students, which would require the hiring of 39 teachers, and the 6 percent pay raises promised to the school system's four labor unions for next year -- at a cost of $29.3 million -- had been the driving forces behind his proposal, Murphy said.

The school board faces some tough choices, Murphy said.

County Executive Parris N. Glendening has told school officials they can expect to receive just $20 million more next year. The resulting $28 million gap between that and the amount Murphy said the schools need to "stay even" is "something the board will have to deal with very seriously," Murphy said.

The $20 million increase promised to the school board may be imperiled by a mounting deficit in the county's budget, said County Council member Jo Ann T. Bell. Glendening said yesterday that he is considering layoffs of police officers and firefighters, and the schools may have to absorb some of the shortfall.

In a letter to school board Chairman Catherine M. Burch that accompanied his proposed budget, Murphy said board members have three options for "reconciling" the deficit, "none of {them} attractive": asking the unions to renegotiate their pay raises, cutting programs, or laying off as many as 1,000 workers.

In a meeting with reporters yesterday, however, Murphy laid out the choices more starkly, saying there "is no way without renegotiating the contracts that the board can absorb a $27.9 million shortfall" and avoid massive layoffs. Every 40 positions cut would save about $1 million, but "wreak havoc" on the schools, he said.

Frank Stetson, president of the union that represents principals and other administrators, said yesterday it was too soon to say whether his group's membership would be receptive to reopening contract talks a year early and accepting smaller pay raises.

"If that's what they want to do, we'll certainly talk to our members and see what their opinions are," Stetson said. Officials of the union that represents county teachers could not be reached for comment.

Burch said the last time the unions were asked to forsake salary increases in 1982, the offer was rejected and 500 teachers were fired. Burch said the board could choose this year to ignore its contracts and impose smaller pay raises on its employees as an alternative to losing employees.

Both Murphy and Burch said they remain optimistic that the state government, as part of an overhaul of Maryland's tax structure being considered by the General Assembly, may provide more school aid for Prince George's.

But Burch said that because the school board must forward its budget request to Glendening by March 1, the board must make its decisions "based on the numbers we know are practical." Glendening, who must present a budget to the County Council by April 1, can reduce the board's overall request but cannot delete specific items.

The budget plan continues the practice, begun last month as a cost-cutting measure, of reassigning about 50 central office administrators as full-time classroom teachers and requiring school-based administrators to teach on a substitute basis.

$1.9 million: Additional teacher positions to meet needs of 2,000 more students.

$300,000: Related enrollment growth costs.

$7.6 million: Employee benefit cost increases.

$500,000: Sixth-grade and special education classroom computer acquisition.

$1.3 million: Non-public special education placements.

$1.1 million: Replacement bus acquisitions and refuse removal fees.

$5.9 million: Incremental pay increases.

$29.3 million: Cost-of-living increases.

Total: $47.9 million

SOURCE: Prince George's County Public Schools