RICHMOND, AUG. 17 -- Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said today he plans to cut state aid to public schools by 5 percent, the clearest sign yet that local governments -- including those in Northern Virginia -- will bear a heavy burden in his campaign to save $1.4 billion.

Wilder and his top financial aides appeared before the legislature's money committees this morning to add specifics to the general statements he made in a statewide televised speech on the state's projected revenue shortfall the previous evening.

Much of the news was bad for local governments.

In addition to the $153 million in education cuts, Wilder proposed shelving a previously approved plan to return money from real estate filing fees to cities and counties. Taken together, the cuts will cost local governments $333.5 million, about a quarter of the total savings.

So far, it is not known how much each school district will lose, or whether local school officials will be forced to cut programs as a result. Wilder has asked the Commission on Educational Opportunity to recommend a formula for deciding how big a cut each district will suffer.

If cuts in school aid are equal in all districts, poorer districts that get a higher percentage of their budgets from state aid would be hurt the most, a circumstance that Wilder is committed to preventing.

For example, the state gives Alexandria only 20 percent of what is considered the minimum funding for its schools, while Wise County, in the Southwest coal fields, gets 80 percent from the state.

Transportation, for years the dominant item on Northern Virginia's political agenda, also will suffer cuts as the state's economy cools off and revenues are squeezed. Transportation Secretary John G. Milliken said highway construction projects not yet out for bids will be delayed for six months.

Those projects are financed primarily by taxes collected on the sales of gasoline and automobiles, both of which have leveled off and may actually decline as prices rise because of the crisis in the Middle East, Milliken said.

Road maintenance money distributed to local governments also will be reduced, Milliken said, which may result in slower snow removal or less frequent lawn mowing on median strips.

The bulk of cuts to local governemnts won't occur until the second year of the two-year budget cycle, which begins next July 1. An exception is the real estate filing fees, one-third of which were scheduled to be returned to local governments in January.

Although the governor does not need legislative approval for most of his proposals -- he can cut any item in the budget by up to 25 percent and any salary by as much as 15 percent -- he said he intends to submit all of the changes to the General Assembly in January.

Some of his proposals, including the plan not to return the real estate filing fees to local governments and the abolition of several small state agencies, require legislative consent.

"There will be some give and take, some compromise, some changes," said Del. C. Richard Cranwell (D-Vinton), chairman of the House Finance Committee.

Wilder also plans to make up for some of the $1.4 billion revenue shortfall by assuming that the income from investments of state pension fund money will be 8 percent instead of 6.5 percent. That allows state government to trim its contribution to the fund by $129 million during the next two-year budget cycle.

Wilder said the fund's current assumption of a 6.5 return on its investments is "unrealistically low" and applauded a decision by the retirement system on Thurdsay to change its expectations to an 8 percent annual return.

Quizzed later by legislators, state Finance Secretary Paul W. Timmreck said expectations of an 8 percent return are "very solid" and similar to the assumptions of other prudently managed pension funds.

"Eight percent is not way out of line with what other states do," agreed Roland Machold, an investment adviser with the New Jersey state government.

But the timing of the announcement, when the state is facing a severe fiscal crunch because of declining tax revenue, makes him suspicious, Machold said. "If, in effect, there's less money going in {to the pension fund} than before, you have to ask why," he said.

Machold said Virginia may have legitimate actuarial reasons for its change, but noted that some financially pinched governments and businesses have tried to skimp by putting too little money into supporting pension funds.

Several legislators voiced frustration that for all of Wilder's public statements about the state's fiscal problems, they are still in the dark on important specifics of how deeply state agencies will be cut and what effect that will have on programs.

For example, the largest part of the administration's proposed savings -- $871.5 million, nearly 65 percent of the total -- will come from cuts to state agencies, but those cuts won't be announced until next month.

Those reductions will have a strong trickle-down effect on Northern Virginia's local governments as well, because much of the money goes to support jointly financed programs such as day-care and mental health facilities.

"We are miserably uninformed at the present time," said state Sen. Dudley J. "Buzz" Emick Jr. (D-Botetourt).

The sentiment was echoed among Northern Virginia's local elected officials. "It's like a train coming down the road," said Prince William County Board Chairman Robert L. Cole (D-Gainesville). "You can see it, but you don't know how big it is."

Still, some top administrators could see enough to know that they didn't like it. Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert said he expects human services programs there to be cut 5 percent because of the state's budget "guillotine."

Losing the real estate filing fees also would throw local budgets out of whack because cities and counties were counting on some of that money in the current fiscal year.

The fees are collected at local courthouses when real estate transactions are filed, and the state's plan to return more of the money to local governments for education or transportation would be especially helpful in Northern Virginia, where more such filings are made than elsewhere in the state. In Fairfax County, the fees would have meant an extra $5.5 million this year and $11 million next year.

Leaning on local governments to help the state won't work as a long-term solution, said Arlington County Board Chairman Albert C. Eisenberg, a Democrat. "You can take from Peter for only so long," he said.

Some legislators said local officials' complaints about the cuts are a bit overheated.

"I think everyone's howl is worse than their pain," said Cranwell. "This is a family matter, and the localities are part of the family of the Commonwealth of Virginia."

Finance Secretary Timmreck said there is "a very good chance that we are entering a recession. Certainly, the construction sector of Northern Virginia is in a recession."

Although growth in Northern Virginia spurred tax collections in the second half of the 1980s, the Virginia Employment Commission reported that in the first six months of this year, the Washington suburbs trailed both the Tidewater area and western Virginia in overall employment growth.

Staff writers Brooke A. Masters and John Ward Anderson contributed to this report.