D.C. government payroll records show that 785 employes were added to the city's work force during the first month of a hiring freeze ordered by Mayor Marion Barry, a highranking city official has revealed.

D.C. Controller Al Hill acknowledged Tuesday that he reported the new hirings during a meeting of financial officers of city agencies a week ago. n

Barry imposed the hiring freeze March 1 as part of his overall plan to avoid a projected Distrcit of Columbia budget deficit of $172.4 million.

In a letter to City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon announcing his budget plan, Barry wrote that city agencies would be able to make reductions and still carry out essential services "through judicious application of program realignments (and) a hiring freeze. . . ."

The city government has been criticized frequently by Congress, federal agencies and the business community for having too many employes and for having relatively more administrative employes than other cities.

Barry's savings plan calls for the city to eliminate 677 jobs by Sept. 30 through attrition.

Barry has declined to comment on the new hirings, saying instead that he tends to prepare a report for public release on the progress of his plan. Included, Barry said, will be information on the effects of the hiring freeze.

Ivanhoe Donaldson, Barry's general assistant and chief of staff, confirmed that employes were added to the payroll in March but said he did not know how many.

Donaldson said that many of the new workers were hired in February before the freeze officially began but that the employes did not show up on the payroll until March.

Donaldson also said that he believed many of the new hirings came in agencies not under the mayor's control, such as the school system, D.C. General Hospital and the University of the District of Columbia.

School officials said they were not able yesterday to determine the number of employes hired in March. They did say, however, that at least 90 workers were hired during the last part of the month. Paychecks for those 90 employes have been held up until "certificates of employment" -- a new Barry administration device for monitoring hiring -- are issued by city Budget Director Gladys W. Mack.

Barry's hiring freeze grants exemptions for revenue-producing and direct health care positions. Mack has acknowledged that her office has granted a number of selective exemptions to the freeze, including some to take onto the city payroll employes whose salaries previously were paid by the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program, but whose eligibility for the federal program has expired.

Hill said Tuesday that he did not yet know which city agencies had hired the new employes. He also said he did not know how many workers had left the payroll during March. "We're working on that data now," he said.

Hill said that at the meeting last week with the financial officers he was "basically just sharing information . . . I don't think we've ever kept these (monthly) statistics before."

Called again yesterday, Hill declined to further discuss the new hirings. He referred inquiries to the mayor's press office, which has refused to provide information about hirings in March.

Reports of the hirings come at a time when Barry's plans to balance the budget have come under strong attack from a variety of directions.

Barry has announced plans to lay off 546 workers. The administration has already sent out 155 pink slips, with 145 more scheduled to go out tomorrow. But labor groups have sharply criticized the layoffs plan, charging that city workers are being made scapegoats for local mismanagement, the failure of Congress to authorize an adequate federal payment for the District, and the failure of the business community to bear a fair share of the tax burden.

On Tuesday, a group of prisoners at Lorton Reformatory won a court-ordered delay in Barry's planned layoffs of 20 guards at the prison's maximum security facility.

U.S. District Court Judge June L. Green issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the layoffs until the prisoners receive a hearing in court on their charges that reducing the work force in the cellblocks would seriously decrease security.

Barry's proposed $24 million tax and user fee package has drawn fire from the business community, which must bear most of the burden of the new taxes, and from City Council finance committee chairman John A. Wilson, through whose committee the taxes must pass in order to win final council approval.

And Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) told Barry and members of the City Council Wednesday that their request to Congress for a $61.8 million supplemental federal payment -- another key element of the plan to balance the budget -- is in danger unless the mayor and the Council come forth with a comprehensive plan for further reducing the size of city government.

"I think the manner in which the mayor and the council handle this budget crisis will largely determine our future success in getting a more adequate federal payment and budget autonomy." Fauntroy said after the meeting.

Meanwhile, Barry and some of his top aides have begun to speak quietly of the freeze no longer as a means of saving money but merely as a way to gain control of the hiring process.

"The freeze was never intended as a savings mechanism," Donaldson said recently, adding that the freeze may be lifted before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 3. By law, Barry must have the city's budget balanced by that date.

"A freeze doesn't really work in the long or short term to save money," Donaldson said. "But it does establish disciplines."

"There is no such thing as an absolute freeze, but you need controls, and that's what we were after," Barry said last week.

A few days later, however, the mayor said. "The freeze was intended to save money, and it is saving money."

City Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), a frequent critic of the way Barry has handled the budget crisis, said of the the reports of new hirings, "It doesn't look like much of a freeze to me. It looks like we're going to have to have a great deal more policing."