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Addressing the shortage of government accountants: 2 paths to efficiency

December 11, 2023 Article 5 min read
Brian Camiller Mike Riffel
In Route Fifty, experts Brian Camiller and Mike Riffel discuss why the dwindling number of qualified, government-savvy accounting professionals makes it imperative for municipalities to find new efficiencies sooner rather than later.
Government accountant at their desk working.It has never been easy for state and local governments to lure top accounting professionals away from high-paying commercial industries. While exceptional benefits packages have proved successful, most municipalities can no longer afford to offer Cadillac-level healthcare, pensions, and other benefits.

That recruiting challenge is exacerbated by an ongoing shortage of qualified professionals for critical accounting roles. Unfortunately, the deficit is unlikely to improve anytime soon. One National Association of State Treasurers study observes that 60% of public finance workers are over age 45 while less than 20% are younger than 35. A recent Government Finance Officers Association report notes that nearly one-third of the current public finance workforce will reach retirement age within 10 years.

As the workforce shrinks, however, the opportunities to become more efficient grow. Municipalities may overcome some challenges by evaluating new technology and staffing models. Although this kind of evaluation may not address some personnel shortages — such as police officers or firefighters — it can often help agencies meet the specialized demands of public sector financial management. The key is understanding what to look for to successfully bridge the expertise gap. 

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