Residents have obtained enough names on petitions to place a 47 percent Sevier County tax increase on the ballot. However, it's still unclear whether the budget can be changed by a ballot referendum.

The petition drive follows a controversial tax hike by the County Commission. The tax hike angered residents, still seething at a 59 percent increase in the budget a year ago.Petitioners obtained the necessary number of names for consideration of the issue to go on the ballot. State law requires signatures of 12.5 percent of those who cast votes in the last gubernatorial election. That refers to 777 names in Sevier County.

Al Ricksecker, one of five people who signed a request for the petitions to be issued and who has been instrumental in the petition drive, said his purpose behind the move is to settle a legal question. He believes this may be a test case that will probably get to the attorney general's office and perhaps to the Utah Supreme Court.

Although Ricksecker has objected to tax increases in the past, he says he believes the commission adopted a "realistic budget."

The issue is whether taxpayers have a right to participate in levying taxes or adopting budgets, although the Utah Constitution states that "referendums may not initiate budgets or changes in budgets."

Sevier County Attorney Don Brown is researching the matter and will make a recommendation to County Clerk Steve Wall and advise the commission as to whether the issue should be placed on the ballot. In the past, he has opened that the commission has the authority to levy taxes and set budgets without public interference.

The next general election won't be until 1992, so one source concluded that the petition effort is a moot exercise. Wall said a special election could cost the county as much as $10,000.