VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — Officers in Venice are raising concerns surrounding their pay scale as the city continues to grow and the need for a larger force becomes a reality.

“We are seeing some retention issues, and we are concerned about future recruitment. The city is growing exponentially, and with that, we need to scale our services here at the police department,” said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 57 President Sam Montes. “Being the lowest paid in the county and one of the lowest paid agencies in the region, we are just not going to be able to attract the best and most qualified applicants that this city deserves.”

Currently, the Venice Police Department is made up of 51 sworn officers. City officials tell 8 On Your Side there are currently two openings and four officers have left since the first of the year. Montes explains the hiring process has been continuous throughout the year.

“We just had an officer quit right after he finished training a couple months ago. He had only worked here for a few months,” said Montes. “There are tens of thousands of dollars invested into an applicant before they even walk in the door for their first day, so to lose somebody after we have hired them and put them through training costs a lot of money, so it’s just not efficient to keep the pay so low when we can’t retain the staff,” he explained.

Right now, the starting salary for an officer at VPD is around $53,000, which is around $10,000 less than other city police departments in the county.

“We are concerned about losing applicants to the sheriff’s office and the Sarasota Police Department because the sheriff’s office is starting at $75,000 for a brand new deputy and Sarasota Police Department is starting at $68,000 for a new officer,” Montes said. “It’s just a huge discrepancy in pay and we are absolutely concerned. We are going to lose qualified officers here to these other agencies.”

Negotiations with the city are underway. A city representative told us per the HR Director, “The City will not be providing comment while negotiations are pending.”

The next bargaining session is supposed to take place in the last week of November. It will be open to the public.