TAMPA -- After years of neglect and massive spills that spewed roughly a billion gallons of sewage into local bays and streets, residents in St. Pete are having to pick up part of the tab.

On Thursday, a special council committee voted to increase utility bills to help generate money for the $320 million needed to upgrade the city’s sewer system.

If passed by council in December, starting in January, the average water and sewer bill would go up by about $132 a year, which is a roughly $11 a month.

Councilman Karl Nurse said over the next five years, residents will likely see a total increase of about $25. He said the money generated from the rate hikes, in addition to the $90 million expected to come from Penny For Pinellas, should be enough to cover costs for most of the upgrades.

The city has already started on some of the work, including lining pipes, replacing sewer manholes and increasing capacity at the Southwest wastewater plant. Nurse said lining pipes takes the longest, but by next rainy season, there should be less concern about if the city has enough capacity to process heavy stormwater events.

A public hearing for the utility rate increase has been set for November 20. Council will vote on the measure December 7.

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@wtsp.com.