U.S. government accounting board chairman to retire

* Accounting board chief leaving before term expires

* Board at center of debate on pension accounting

NEW YORK, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The chairman of the U.S. board that sets accounting standards for state and local governments will retire next June, a year ahead of the end of his term, the Financial Accounting Foundation said on Tuesday.

Robert Attmore, a former auditor for New York state, has headed the nonprofit Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) since July 2004.

The Financial Accounting Foundation, which oversees accounting standard-setters for municipal governments and the private sector, said in a statement that it will soon begin a search for a successor to Attmore.

The normally low-profile GASB attracted national attention this year as it adopted a tougher stance on pension accounting. Its accounting overhaul, taking effect in 2013 and 2014, will force many state and local governments to acknowledge that their pension plans are drastically underfunded.

State and local governments are under mounting strain because of their pension funding obligations.

Attmore's departure means standard-setters for both government and corporate accounting will come under new leadership next summer.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), which sets standards for U.S. companies, will lose its chairman, Leslie Seidman, next June when her term expires.

(Reporting by Dena Aubin; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and John Wallace)