The Delaware County budget commission has written a letter telling the county commissioners if they want to build a new courthouse, it would be "fiscally prudent" to put the issue before the county's voters.

The Delaware County budget commission has written a letter telling the county commissioners if they want to build a new courthouse, it would be "fiscally prudent" to put the issue before the county's voters.

The budget commission includes auditor Todd Hanks, prosecutor David Yost and treasurer Dale Wilgus.

Hanks, who has criticized the commissioners' plan, said, "If the commissioners are so entrenched in going forward with this $51-million package against the judgment of the budget commission and myself, ... then one way for them to do it would be to go to the ballot."

The letter notes the county faces a $3.47-million operating deficit for fiscal year 2008 and layoffs seem to be inevitable.

During the past five years, the county has received input from outside consultants and citizen-led commissions which have determined the county's current justice facilities are inadequate due to size and security constraints.

Hanks said he'd support a scaled-down version of the planned courthouse complex, and has urged the commissioners to consider building the facility in phases. If that's not done, however, he said putting the issue before voters is the only way he would approve of the project as proposed - short of a court mandate.

"It should go to the ballot because it's (the taxpayers') money, first of all," Hanks said. "It doesn't matter what kind of study we do, we can't afford it.

"I will not sign off on $51-million of bonds. I'm willing to entertain discussions on other options, but I will not sign off on $51-million in bonds unless its court-ordered."

Even if the commissioners agreed to put the matter before voters, it couldn't be decided this year. Delaware County Board of Elections director Janet Brenneman said the deadline for placing issues on the Nov. 4 ballot was Aug. 21.

Brenneman said she believes a countywide issue could be put on a special, February ballot, and the deadline for submitting such an initiative to the BOE is Nov. 21.

The submission deadline for placing a countywide issue on the May ballot is Feb. 19.