Local government officials are hurriedly tightening belts and predicting deep program cuts this year and next because taxes related to the Washington area's real estate market are falling far short of projections.

Officials cite a leveling of property taxes and a big drop in fees collected from building permits and real estate transactions as the leading causes of current and potential budget deficits in several jurisdictions. Sales taxes and income taxes are also being affected by the region's economic stagnation.

Real estate-related revenue is the primary problem in Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun and Prince George's counties and is among the top concerns in Montgomery and Howard counties, authorities say.

For many of the jurisdictions, the prescription is the same: Cut nonessential spending such as travel, limit hiring and prepare to trim programs and services.

The outlook is particularly bleak in Loudoun and Prince William, growth fringe areas that experienced a major development boom in the 1980s. A surge in land prices, prompted in part by speculation, led to phenomenal increases in property taxes and, subsequently, government spending. The potential revenue loss has shaken the outer county officials as they plan budgets for fiscal 1992, which begins in July.

"Maybe the sky is not falling, but I think we all ought to put on a hard hat," said Loudoun County Board Chairman Betty W. Tatum.

Prince William officials foresee a budget deficit of roughly $20 million, or nearly 7 percent of the county's expected needs, next year. Loudoun's shortfall could reach $34 million, or more than 10 percent, in 1992, officials say.

Authorities say real estate tax revenue could decline as much as $5 million in Loudoun from this year to next. "It could be worse in fiscal 1993," said budget officer John Wells.

For fiscal 1992, Fairfax County projects a shortfall of up to $100 million, which represents about 4 percent of current-year spending. The District finished fiscal 1990 a month ago with an estimated $93 million deficit, or about 3 percent, and the city government faces a similar shortfall this year. Officials attribute the D.C. gap to increasing human services costs and declining sales tax and corporate income tax revenue.

Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties are facing budget deficits of about 4 percent in the current year, and officials say it's too early to forecast 1992 problems. Income tax revenue levels and November referendums that would limit property tax bills are among uncertainties making it hard to predict the depth of cuts needed.

Many officials say they have been surprised at how suddenly and steeply the economy has tumbled in a region long thought to be recession-proof.

In Prince George's, the original estimate for this year's real estate transfer fees was $59 million, but the current estimate is $44 million. Similarly, real estate recordation fees are apparently down from $20 million to $15 million, and those figures "may be optimistic," said county revenue analyst Janet Everette.

Montgomery revenue and tax specialist Dan Lucas said the value of new construction this year was first projected at $525 million, was lowered to $435 million, and is now pegged at about $370 million.

"It's something new in this area," said Howard County senior budget analyst David White. Said Prince William budget officer Kathy Lueckert, "It's just real scary."

In Montgomery, County Executive Sidney Kramer has imposed a hiring freeze, halted travel and made other cuts in this year's budget. Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening has ordered agency heads to prepare for imminent cuts of 5, 10 or 15 percent and has limited capital expenditures.

In the next several weeks, officials in the Maryland suburbs are expected to announce more details of cuts as the revenue picture becomes clearer.

Loudoun officials have shelved efforts to build a $50 million county government office complex and have directed agencies to save $6 million to $10 million this year to help cover next year's needs. Prince William has deferred purchase of a computerized office automation system, expansion of the crowded juvenile jail and construction of some roads.

Fairfax agency heads have been directed to trim 5 percent from their proposed 1992 spending plans. "The residential {real estate} market is nearly flat," County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert told the Fairfax Board of Supervisors this month. Real estate tax problems may continue because "many developers are simply giving up on projects or just sitting on them for the time being," he added.

A decade of federal aid reductions and recently announced state funding cuts in Maryland and Virginia have put strong pressure on local governments to finance a greater share of basic services with local revenue.

Officials in several suburban jurisdictions are facing election this year or next, and many are pledging not to raise local tax rates, mindful that residents face rising gas prices and the prospect of increased federal taxes.

"There will likely be a period of paying for the excesses of the '80s," said Philip A. Bolen, county administrator in Loudoun, which increased its budget 30 percent this year.

"The schools are going to suffer," lamented Prince William Supervisor Edwin C. King.

In both jurisdictions, authorities say the loss of real estate taxes will likely sting more deeply than cuts in state financing. "We've been real spoiled" by annual real estate assessment increases averaging about 15 percent through much of the 1980s, said Lueckert.

Home sales have dropped significantly throughout the region this year, depressing prices. Among the most visible symbols of the industry's troubles is the recent transfer of ownership of the huge Cascades and Brambleton developments in eastern Loudoun to a Maryland bank. Smaller Loudoun parcels have gone on the auction block in recent weeks, with top bids falling below assessed values in some cases.

Fairfax County's overall increase in property assessments likely will be 1 percent or less this year, according to Lambert. Growth in the county's residential and commercial real estate base is estimated at 2 percent, its lowest level in 20 years, he said.

The District and Northern Virginia governments reassess all properties annually, but Maryland counties reassess only one-third of their parcels each year. The impact of a weak real estate market on property tax collections is felt more gradually in Maryland, officials said.

Some of the decline in income tax revenue flowing to Maryland counties can be attributed to the real estate market, according to Howard County official David White. Much of the lost revenue is from real estate partnership profits.

Maryland assessments supervisor Joe Szabo said pockets of land in Montgomery, Carroll, Queen Anne's and Baltimore counties have shown sharply declining sales prices this year, prompting adjustments in some assessments just before notices go out this winter.