If you're talking about cutting officers or eliminating overtime, here's a suggestion to put more officers on the street essentially for free: Implement verified response for burglar alarms. About 98-99% of residential burglar alarm callas are false alarms and nearly all the rest of the time the suspect is long gone when officers arrive. Implementing verified response would be like expanding the police force by 10% or more, allowing officers to focus on more important tasks. The reason this suggestion is free to the city, incidentally, is that it essentially eliminates a special-interest subsidy to the private alarm industry that's unjustified based on any cost-benefit analysis. It also would create jobs because the alarm companies must hire staff to verify alarms.Salt Lake City's verified response program provides one of the best examples of this strategic redeployment of scarce officer resources: "Average private guard response times to alarm activations has been much faster than the previous average police response times. Average police response time to other high priority calls for service dropped from five to three minutes." Before Salt Lake implemented verified response, "False alarm calls were draining patrol resources and often created a significant backlog of calls."
I've not seen comparable data for Austin, but in many cities including Plano and Richardson, false alarms are the single most common category of police calls, more frequent than things like 911 calls or traffic accidents. Freed from reacting to unverified alarms, police could focus more on crime fighting, plus local employment gets a boost from alarm companies hiring more staff.
There will inevitably be citizens reacting out of fear who claim that nothing but police reacting to their burglar alarm will do, even if private security would get there sooner. Indeed, as soon as verified response is proposed, you can expect private alarm companies to engage in all sorts of fear mongering communcations with their customers urging them to oppose the idea. In reality, only a tiny number of arrests result from many thousands of residential burglar alarm calls, the false-positive rate is off the charts, and private homeowners are safer with private security getting their quicker, focusing police responses on verified emergencies.
If budget cuts reach so deep that police overtime, eliminating a cadet class, etc, are on the table, Austin should simultaneously seek ways to maximize bang for the buck from the officers we can afford. For jurisdictions which can muster the political courage to make policy based on data instead of the irrational expectations of burglary alarm customers, implementing verified response is the cheapest, most straightforward way to boost police coverage without increasing costs.