The New Jersey School Boards Association will return to the Atlantic City Convention Center for its annual conference this year, bringing more than 5,000 visitors and $7 million in estimated spending to the resort in October.

In its newsletter posted online Wednesday, the NJSBA said that Acting Education Commissioner Christopher D. Cerf has approved a waiver allowing districts to reimburse board members and administrators for lodging costs associated with the October 24-26 event. His letter said participants must still meet state regulations in order to get reimbursed.

The NJSBA moved the event to Somerset in 2010 to save money and provide a more centralized location for participants to attend. The convention had been held in Atlantic City since 1952 and has been a boost to the local economy during the traditionally slow late fall season.

NJSBA spokesman Frank Belluscio said the Somerset event was successful but much smaller.

"The Atlantic City Convention Center was built for our type of conference," he said. "It has the large exhibit space, plus smaller rooms for meetings and training."

NJSBA Director Marie Bilik said in the newsletter that the group looked at other sites, but the Convention Center remains the best location for the event and offers facilities that cannot be replicated elsewhere in the state. She said they also want to help the governor's efforts to revitalize Atlantic City.

"NJSBA wishes to be a partner with Governor Christie in his effort to rejuvenate this important component of the New Jersey economy," Bilik said. She noted that much of the estimated $7 million in revenue generated by the conference comes from private sector participation.

Jeffrey Vasser, president of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority, said convention officials are thrilled with the decision and its implications for the future.

"It does send a message about our ability to support a convention of that size," he said. "We took a big hit when they were not here last year."

He said conference participants typically book the equivalent of about 9,000 room nights, plus eat and shop in the city. So the event has a wide-ranging impact.

Belluscio said the conference is the third largest annual conference in the city after the New Jersey Education Association, which attracts more than 40,000 people, and the New Jersey League of Municipalities. He said the conference includes board member training that is required by the state, and that members said they prefer having one large event at which they could talk with venders and share ideas with their counterparts from around the state.

State Department of Treasury guidelines prohibit reimbursement for in-state overnight travel, but the state Department of Education may grant waivers for events considered educationally relevant. Reimbursement will not be granted for lodging prior to the first day of the event, or after check-out time of the last day. The waiver approval from Cerf also notes that the waiver only covers attendees whose one-way commute to the event exceeds 50 miles.

Contact Diane D'Amico:

609-272-7241