A group of disgruntled Sevier County taxpayers is circulating petitions in an effort to get a referendum on the ballot in opposition to the 47 percent tax increase levied by the County Commission.

The petition calls for the 1991 Sevier County budget resolution to "be referred to the people of the county of Sevier for their approval or rejection at an election . . . ."A referendum petition must be signed by at least 12.5 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election, according to County Attorney Don Brown. During the last gubernatorial election in 1988, 6,208 votes were cast in Sevier County. Therefore, petitioners must get 776 signatures.

Brown said there is a question as to whether such a petition can place the issue on the ballot.

The Utah attorney general ruled in 1989 that a referendum can't be placed on a ballot that either imposes tax levies or city budgets. The ruling was handed down following a petition in Richfield asking that a 3 percent franchise tax that was approved by the City Council be placed on the ballot.

Brown's opinion is that the same ruling would likely prevail in the case of counties. "The legal voters of any county, city or town may not initiate budgets or changes in budgets or tax levies or changes in tax levies," he said, quoting state law, and "the legal voters of any county, city or town may not require any budget or tax levy adopted by the governing body of the county, city or town to be submitted to the voters."

Al Ricksecker Jr., Monroe, one of five who signed an application for petitions at the county clerk's office, said the group believes the state constitution allows for such a referendum and that Sevier County's budget could become a test case in the issue.

Ricksecker said the group is gathering signatures on the assumption that petitions can be presented to the county within 30 days of the budget setting. That translates to Jan. 17.

The application for petitions was also signed by Art J. Robinson Salina; Newell Hales, Redmond; Gary A. Cowley, Venice; and Paul Turner, Richfield.